The owners and board of directors of a 104-unit Wilmette, Illinois cooperative apparently knew that the Fair Housing Act exempts senior housing properties from the ban against familial status discrimination. But what they didn't seem to know is that your property has to qualify as senior housing before you can safely start discriminating against families with children.
The problem arose in 2006 when individual unit owners tried to sell their unit to a family that had two young children. The cooperative blocked the sale, pointing to a rule that the "community is not considered suitable for children under 18 years of age." A local HUD-funded fair housing enforcement agency promptly filed a fair housing complaint with HUD, arguing that the cooperative can't discriminate against families with children if it's not truly senior housing.
The legal dispute recently led to a settlement, announced January 14, 2009. Under the terms of the settlement, the cooperative will begin to operate the property as a "55 and older" senior community. But it must pay — $20,000 to the fair housing agency and $8,000 as a civil penalty — plus agree to fair housing training, monitoring, and extensive advertising showing continued compliance with the Fair Housing Act.