As summer draws near, landlords everywhere are beginning to groan. The thought of loud children playing outside at their apartment complex for the upcoming summer is too much to bear. It’s usually at this time of year that landlords attach “Summer Reminders” flyers to tenants’ doors, reminding them that children are not allowed to play outside in common areas. Or, the landlord will pay lip service to the fact that children can play outside, just so long as they don’t play with bicycles, scooters, skateboards, balls, toys, and any other fun item. The net effect of such rule is that children have nothing to do, so they don’t bother going outside. Which is precisely what the landlord hopes to accomplish.
But is this legal?
No. It is not legal. The mere fact that you signed a lease, agreeing to keep your kids indoors, or promising to agree not to allow them to play with various toys, does not make such a provision legal. Imagine if you signed a lease which stated that you promised to give your first born child to the landlord. Would there be any doubt that such a provision was illegal? No. A landlord cannot change illegal conduct into legal conduct, merely by putting it into a lease, and getting you to sign the lease. The law refuses to enforce lease provisions that are illegal, even if a tenant signed the lease agreeing to abide by the illegal term.
But what about a landlord’s concern about safety for children? Many times, this is merely an excuse to stop kids from playing. One federal court held that the “mantra of child safety” does not allow a landlord to refuse to let children play outside, unless the rule is truly needed to protect children. A landlord’s concern that a child “may” get injured while playing is not a good enough excuse to prevent kids from playing. There must be an obvious and real danger to children before a landlord can stop kids from playing. The fact that there are stairs, or a parking lot nearby, is not enough of an excuse for a landlord to stop kids from playing. The bottom line is that children are allowed to play outside in common areas, to have fun, and to make reasonable noise. A landlord cannot evict a tenant who lets their children play outside.