"No roommate" policy? Since when?
May 28, 2012 6:26 PM   Subscribe

2 weeks of positive contact with potential landlady regarding new apartment for myself + fiance. She invites me to look at the place then tells me there is a "no roommates" policy and they only provide leases to single tenants or married couples. WTF- is this a thing?

Some background- Significant other and I are moving 3 hours north due to a new job. He is still cranking out his dissertation and I am in charge of finding us a place. Found a dream apartment in a historical building, good price, good location etc etc. I made contact with the landlady two weeks ago via email. She responded by phone- I explained the tenants would include myself, fiance, and two cats. Their pet policy jived with us, the lady seemed nice, and we had several other phone/email conversations to set up a possible time for me to visit the apartment. During these conversations I was in no way unclear about who would be living there and there seemed to be no problems. We also made general small talk about hobbies, what job fields we were in, and other pleasantries.

Yesterday I arrived for our meeting and things were going well. She showed me around the property and we talked for about 30 minutes before saying that she wants to be "up front" with me that they have a no roommates policy. It takes me a little too long to catch on to what she is saying because I reassure her that we won't have any. She then tells me that because we are not yet married my fiance (we've been together 4+ years) is "just a roommate" and they do not allow this because "it saves [them] a lot of headache with broken leases." She tells me that I would be a perfect fit as a tenant in their building, that I am eligible to live there, and invites me to fill out a rental application for myself. After I respond that this would not be a possibility, she asks when my wedding date is (next fall-ish) and suggests I "run to city hall to get the piece of paper and you can still have your big wedding later." I was completely floored by the whole interaction and the two weeks with no indication of this being an issue, so I left as quickly as I could.

All of that seemed super fucking weird to me. My question- is this a thing that other landlords do? Has anyone else ever run into this?
posted by shes_ajar to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps she is trying to avoid multiple people being on the lease. Could you suggest to her that you are willing to be the sole person on the lease and take full responsibility for everything related to the apartment so long as the lease clearly states that your long-term fiance of four years and your two cats are permitted to also live there?

Also, location (I'm assuming the U.S.) would probably help other posters, since landlord/tenant stuff seems to vary so widely by state, county, and municipality.
posted by arnicae at 6:32 PM on May 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

What city/state/province/country/whatever is this in?
posted by elizardbits at 6:33 PM on May 28, 2012

Pretending to be married was the whole premise of the series Spaced. So, it's a thing.
posted by scruss at 6:34 PM on May 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

Where are you? In some jurisdictions, landlords cannot discriminate on the basis of family status.

But still, she sounds like a pain and not someone you'd want to rent from, even if you used the law to leverage you and your fiance in.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:34 PM on May 28, 2012 [12 favorites]

posted by shes_ajar at 6:34 PM on May 28, 2012

this kind of discrimination is illegal in many places. For example, in California, this is not allowed: California Tenants Rights:
California law also prohibits discrimination based on any of the following:

A person's medical condition or mental or physical disability; or
Personal characteristics, such as a person's physical appearance or sexual orientation that are not related to the responsibilities of a tenant;40 or
A perception of a person's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability or medical condition, or a perception that a person is associated with another person who may have any of these characteristics.41

Google tenants rights in your area.
posted by bleep at 6:35 PM on May 28, 2012

Even if this is legal, which I doubt, stay as far away from these people as possible. They're crazypants.
posted by milarepa at 6:35 PM on May 28, 2012 [15 favorites]

Oh, also, sorry, not to threadsit but- she did give me an example story of a current tenant who lived there while dating his now wife- she did not allow the tenant's SO to move in until after they were married, even if it was just him on the lease.
posted by shes_ajar at 6:36 PM on May 28, 2012

Yeah, this person sounds pretty irrational and will likely be a shitty landlord with all kinds of unreasonable expectations. She suddenly now, after two weeks, wants to be "up front" with you about this policy that has obviously been in place for years? Why did she waste two weeks of your time, then?
posted by elizardbits at 6:39 PM on May 28, 2012 [12 favorites]

This is not legal in Michigan. They cannot discriminate based on marital status.

I would call the Fair Housing Center to get an idea of what your options are.
posted by Jairus at 6:39 PM on May 28, 2012 [14 favorites]

For reference, Craigslist has a decent guide to federal and local laws on housing discrimination. As Jairus says, saying "no roommates unless you are married" is illegal in Michigan.
posted by Xalf at 6:45 PM on May 28, 2012

Clearly, you should not rent from this person. Phoning the Fair Housing Center or a similar organization and getting them to mail the landlord a leaflet about discrimination laws or give them a stern talking to probably suffices for your civic duty to stand up to discrimination.

This suggests there is precedent in Michigan for refusing to rent to unmarried couples being illegal. (This is apparently not true in all states that prohibit discrimination on the basis of marital status.)

Weirdly, it appears that Michigan bans cohabitation by unmarried couples, though the law is not enforced and the assumption is that it would fail to withstand a challenge after Lawrence v Texas.
posted by hoyland at 6:55 PM on May 28, 2012

Whoa, hang on, are you sure that your landlady isn't just opposed to premarital cohabitation for religious/moral reasons? If the idea of two unwed people living together bothers her, I don't think it's going to be all that comfortable to tell her that it's illegal and force her to allow you both to stay. Maybe see if you can feel out what she has against this set-up and decide from there if you can convince her that you're responsible/upstanding/awesome tenants to have.
posted by segfault at 6:56 PM on May 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

What I find strangest about this whole thing is that you had so much contact prior to this meeting and she waits until now to tell you about her policy. I would not be surprised if someone else has shown interest that she would rather rent to (a friend's family member, someone willing to pay more, even though she allows pets someone without pets, etc). It certainly sounds illegal, and I would be frustrated and peeved myself, but I'd also be grateful that she showed her true colors before I signed something and was legally obligated to deal with her for a substantial amount of time. I'd chalk this up to a crappy experience which may have saved you some future aggravation, and, hopefully, this can be a funny story once the irritation has worn off (Run to city hall and get married, just so you can rent an apartment? Really?) Best of luck finding a much better place with a much more reasonable landlord!
posted by katemcd at 6:58 PM on May 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Even if I could convince this person otherwise, much as everyone else said- definitely no longer interested in renting from her due to this weirdness. Dealing with this kind of crazy long term? No thank you. I do get the feeling that it is for moral reasons (thus the "run out and take care of it at city hall right now" type suggestion- is the kind of couple that would do that really that much more stable in terms of maintaining a lease?).

I already sent her an email which was professional but in no uncertain terms told her that she was a big waste of my time and lost two great potential tenants. I will also be reporting her to the Fair Housing Center- thanks for that info, my Google common sense has obviously failed me but AskMeFi prevails again. Thank you thank you everyone. I'd say this has been resolved.
posted by shes_ajar at 7:02 PM on May 28, 2012 [14 favorites]

She's an insane landlord who could very well be breaking the law in your jurisdiction. Someone who seriously suggests that you dash off to city hall and get married so you can share an apartment (WTF?) is so crazypants that you dodged a major bullet by figuring out how crazy she is early instead of having to deal with her for the next year of your life.

In the future, it's none of your landlord's business whether you guys are married or not. There's no need to get into that in your discussions.
posted by zachlipton at 8:04 PM on May 28, 2012

is this a thing that other landlords do?

I believe that this is not uncommon in Utah-- students at various universities are only allowed to live on campus if they sign leases that have certain provisions about single-sex living and restrictions against cohabitation.

Seriously, though, always be on the lookout for difficult and/or crazy landlords and avoid, avoid, avoid.
posted by deanc at 9:05 PM on May 28, 2012

This is not at all an unusual thing for landlords to do, forty years ago. I mean, that's why my parents got married -- they were sick of not living together and they had to be married to get an apartment together. But these days, it's illegal. Call the authorities and look for someone who's not crazypants.
posted by KathrynT at 9:23 PM on May 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not sure of the legality of it, but I've definitely had people say "no roommates" to me, but married couples are welcome. The tried to get around this by saying they are not discriminating against people based on their married status because they will rent to married couples or single people however they will not rent to multiple people who are not married or family.
posted by patheral at 9:37 PM on May 28, 2012

Pretending to be married was the whole premise of the series Spaced. So, it's a thing.


Hopefully not too much of a derail, but **SPOILER** it turned out the couples-only thing was a misunderstanding because Ricky Gervais was too busy being Ricky Gervais.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 3:49 AM on May 29, 2012

Sounds to me like she was Ok with you and fiancé moving in before she met you, but afterwards decided to pull some nonsense about you not being married rather than just deny your application. Are you at all ethnic, tattooed, hippified or radical? Maybe she just didn't like the looks of yah? You probably dodged a bullet there actually, maybe literally.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:16 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is particularly ridiculous because if you had just said that your fiance was your spouse, it is unlikely that she would have asked for verification.
posted by desuetude at 7:45 AM on May 29, 2012

I know this has been resolved, but I ran into this in Michigan and Pennsylvania. I was advised by a lawyer friend that "marital status" is not a category of discrimination and "familial status" (which is) did not apply, but to be fair I never really looked into it beyond a bit of Googling.
posted by sm1tten at 10:34 AM on May 29, 2012

This Nolo article discusses some of the legal issues around landlords refusing to rent to unmarried couples. According to this blog post, Michigan is one of the few states that considers refusing to rent to unmarried couples as a form of illegal housing discrimination and cites a case last year in which a landlord was fined for the practice. There may be local ordinances in the city/town in question that offer additional protections.
posted by zachlipton at 12:24 PM on May 29, 2012

el_lupino and I ran into this - in a way - when we were moving to Michigan in 2000. We were engaged and were moving to Kalamazoo so that he could take a job teaching at Kalamazoo College. I was enrolling in a program at WMU and planning to get a part-time job. The apartment we wanted to rent had an income requirement - if we were married, it would have applied to our combined income, but since we weren't, it applied to us separately, and obviously I couldn't meet the requirement because I wasn't planning to have a full time job. It was a totally ridiculous situation but clearly intended to keep WMU students from renting there, and we found a great place somewhere else and never checked any further into whether what we had been told was legal.
posted by jocelmeow at 12:48 PM on May 29, 2012

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