As summer approaches, the tolerance of some landlords toward children diminishes. Some landlords will blatantly inform tenants that they don’t want their children playing outside. Period. A host of reasons will be offered. Typically, the most common claim is that children are too noisy, and will upset the peace and quiet of the community (referred to as quiet enjoyment). Landlords will typically advise residents that they signed a lease, and the lease requires all tenants to follow the covenant of quiet enjoyment. If the tenant objects, it’s not uncommon for a landlord to inform them that they will be evicted if they let their children play outside. But is this legal? Are you stuck because you signed a lease that promised peace and quiet? The short answer is, no.
Federal law prohibits landlords from refusing to allow children to play outside in common areas. This is true even if other tenants don’t like children making noise. Making noise, is part of being a child. The mental well-being of children depends on them being able to play outside, and make reasonable amounts of noise when playing. In an apartment or condominium community, there will always be competing interests. On the one hand, adults want peace and quiet. On the other hand, children want to play and have fun. Who wins this dispute? Children. The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from singling out children, and prohibiting them from playing. That’s not to say that landlords cannot restrict unreasonable behavior. A child certainly would not be allowed to play his trumpet or drums at 11:00 p.m. out in the courtyard of the complex. Likewise, a child could not run around his apartment complex with a group of friends, blasting air horns at each other. On the other hand, a child is allowed to laugh, giggle, and make reasonable noise while playing outside. A landlord cannot restrict this type of noise.
But what if you signed a lease, agreeing to keep peace and quiet? While generally all tenants must be considerate of the peace and quiet of their neighbors, your children don’t give up their right to play and make reasonable noise just because you signed a lease. A landlord cannot take away this federally protected right by attempting to have a tenant waive it by signing a lease. Federal law governs, not your lease. If you signed a lease and it has an illegal provision, you are free to disregard it. In short, children are allowed to play outside and make normal noise, even if you signed a lease, promising to follow the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
There seems to be a new movement afoot, which is attempting to keep kids locked up inside for the good of the remainder of the community. This movement is illegal. Your landlord cannot force you to keep your children indoors, so that other members of the community may enjoy peace and quiet. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Craig Fagan at (800) 572-8365, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.