Smoking can blow an apartment deal
Question: I smoke cigarettes. I found a nice apartment I wanted to get, but when the landlord found out I smoke, he said he didn't want to rent it to me. Can a landlord refuse to rent to me just because I smoke?
Answer: According to Cynthia Thomas, Legal Aid's fair housing project manager, yes, the fact that a person smokes cigarettes can indeed provide a basis for rejecting a rental application.
Q: I am a senior citizen looking for an apartment to rent. I found the perfect place, but the resident manager told me that it wasn't a retirement community and suggested I look elsewhere. Is that legal?
A: From Cynthia: No, it is not legal. Age is a protected class under state fair housing laws. Unless the housing is designated senior or elderly housing, housing providers generally cannot discriminate against tenants on the basis of age.
Q: I applied for an apartment, and they denied my application (based on my criminal background) because I'm a listed sex offender. Do I have any protection under the fair housing laws?
A: From Cynthia: In this case, no, you do not. Generally, a landlord can refuse to rent to sex offenders or persons with a criminal background.
Q: My husband and I just had a baby, and my landlord told me that she is going to raise the rent because of our "new addition." Can she do that?
A: From Cynthia: No. Raising the rent because of the baby would be discriminatory on the basis of "familial status." Familial status means living with a child or children who are under 18 years old and also includes women who are pregnant, foster children, hanai children and persons seeking custody or guardianship of a child.
April is National Fair Housing Month. If you have any questions about your fair housing rights or feel that your fair housing rights have been violated, please call the Fair Housing Enforcement Program at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. Oahu: 527-8024. Neighbor islands: (866) 527-3247.
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. For information, call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or by U.S. mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.