Should I tell a prospective landlord that I'm pregnant?
June 14, 2014 5:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm pregnant, so my husband and I are looking for a larger place to live. We found a great house, where the landlord lives in a separate basement MIL unit in the house. Should I conceal that I'm pregnant (doable depending on what I wear) in case concerns about screaming babies might convince him not to rent to us? Or should I tell him up-front, since living in the same house as a landlord who doesn't want you there could be uncomfortable and stressful?

The context: we live in an expensive city where it's been really difficult for us to find a two-bedroom that we can afford. Most 2-beds in our price range are apartments or duplexes. I really want this place, but I'm worried the landlord who lives downstairs wouldn't want to rent to us because he'd be worried about having to listen to a crying baby. So my initial plan was to wear loose-fitting clothing and not mention my pregnancy when we go tour the house and apply.

But I'm also worried about what happens if we do get the house without the landlord being aware of my pregnancy. If the soundproofing isn't great and/or he's the type of person who would be really upset about being woken up by a crying baby, it seems like it could be uncomfortable and stressful to live in the same place, particularly since he's the landlord. So maybe I should just be up-front about the situation to avoid that potential problem?

I know that legally the landlord can't discriminate against prospective tenants based on familial status. (I also know that's a very difficult thing to prove.) What I'm looking for is more pragmatic advice - what would you do in my situation? Hide the pregnancy and risk living with a pissed-off landlord? Or reveal the pregnancy and risk losing the house?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Couples who are not pregnant at the time they rent a place can still have babies.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:00 PM on June 14, 2014 [9 favorites]

A landlord cannot discriminate based on family status.

That said, a landlord can also opt to not renew your lease upon its termination, and you seem well aware of the potential reasons he might decline to renew.

So I'd reveal mostly because you probably don't want to be looking for an apartment again next year. It's in both of your interests to be honest, so that you can find a place to raise your child in peace.
posted by Dashy at 6:01 PM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Should I conceal that I'm pregnant (doable depending on what I wear) in case concerns about screaming babies might convince him not to rent to us?

Christ yes. It's none of his business.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:04 PM on June 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'd try to find out as much as possible about his work schedule (if he works nights then you can take the baby out of there during the day. If he sleeps nights while the baby is screaming, you may all be more stuck with each other.) Ask him how the sound carries and if he's a heavy sleeper.

Otherwise, as Dashy says, you may be in the position of looking with a young baby when your lease ends. I'd keep looking for something more private/anonymous.
posted by Lardmitten at 6:05 PM on June 14, 2014

legally they can't discriminate, will they? yes. They might even be smart enough to cover their ass and turn you down on some other reason. Don't give them any reason to turn you down.
posted by TheAdamist at 6:06 PM on June 14, 2014

I don't see why the state of your uterus is your landlord's concern. I wouldn't mention it. (Although landlords technically can't discriminate on family status, it still happens!)

A decent landlord will be more concerned about whether or not you pay the rent on time and not the sounds that your child will make. But you don't know if he's a good guy. I'd err on the side of being cautious. Fill out the application and minimize other discussions.
posted by Ostara at 6:06 PM on June 14, 2014

I would hide it and take your chances. Worst case scenario, he hates your guts and you move again once the lease is up in a year, and is that really so terrible? There's no guarantee neighbors anywhere else wouldn't have the same exact problem with a "screaming baby". There will be ways you can mitigate the sound traveling (closed doors/windows, sound machines, etc), and ways he can mitigate hearing it. If he even cares. Maybe he's a heavy sleeper. Who knows. Not you. Go for the place and see what happens.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:08 PM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would tour it first. If he's far enough away that only the loudest screaming would bother him, I wouldn't mention it. Any couple he rents to could be/get pregnant, that's a risk he is choosing to take. Your baby may not even be a screamy type (mine wasn't; more of a whimperer unless you were really slow with the feeding).

If he's right next door, then yes I would mention it.
posted by emjaybee at 6:09 PM on June 14, 2014

I wouldn't conceal it, and I'd keep looking - every place I've had an apartment where the landlord lived on the premises turned out to have some sort of shitty thing about it. I would avoid that like the plague.
posted by arnicae at 6:15 PM on June 14, 2014 [27 favorites]

I think you should NOT say anything since you may be inadvertently telegraphing that you are an expected legal hassle or otherwise problem tenant.

Let me clarify

A perspective tenant (former lawyer, fwiw) looked at an available unit and made sure to tell me multiple times they were legally disabled. Soon enough, I started receiving mail for this person to that address. Scammy!

The guy had horrible credit/finances, and I had to sit down with him for an hour going over his financial records to explain why he did not qualify for the apartment.

I guess he thought he could "scare" me into renting to him with the implicit threat that if I refused his application, it was because of his disabled status?


My point is, keep your status to yourself. Don't raise that specter and make anyone double think every gesture they make in your direction as you house hunt.

Legally speaking, your potential landlord is allowed ZERO opinion in terms of renting to anyone with children or not, so don't put the person in a weird spot.


FYI, likely you will be uncomfortable with an infant and close by neighbors, so try not to apply for housing that doesn't suit your needs.

Make yourself comfortable, and you will automatically be doing the right thing by others. If you have to worry about sound transference between units, don't apply for the rental.

It's this simple.
posted by jbenben at 6:21 PM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Fair Housing Act does not apply to landlords that live in the building they rent out if the building has four or fewer units, so it is likely perfectly legal for the landlord to discriminate based on your family status now and in the future. As always, your particular state may provide protections in excess of what the FHA requires.

If your landlord wants to know about your future progeny, he should ask. If he doesn't ask, there's no reason for you to offer that information. If he does ask and you lie, he has good reason to get upset when he finds out in the future.

I'd file this under, "don't offer information that isn't requested."
posted by saeculorum at 6:23 PM on June 14, 2014 [14 favorites]

On principle, I'd think you need not disclose this to a potential landlord. In this case, though, the landlord will be living in the same house. He'll just have a different entrance. I would not be happy with a screaming baby living above me, and while you might be legally protected should you not disclose this information, you have to ask yourself whether you want to add this headache to your life. Parenting is stressful enough as it is!

If your place had two stories, and you could keep the baby's room on the second floor, with an entire level between you and the landlord's apartment, I'd feel more comfortable about it. But if it were me I'd either disclose the information or ask the landlord how he'd feel renting to a family with kids.
posted by Philemon at 6:33 PM on June 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Babies generally only cry when hungry, tired, sick or wet. Only total assholes can't deal with being around a baby for long enough for one of those things to be corrected. I doubt I'd say anything, and I doubt I'd worry about how the baby will be perceived until after it's actually an issue. For all you know the landlord will become you live-in baby sitter and love kids.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:41 PM on June 14, 2014

Your headline is Should I tell a prospective landlord that I'm pregnant? In the body of your message, the question becomes Should I conceal that I'm pregnant.

I think the answer to both questions is "no."
posted by layceepee at 6:43 PM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'll dissent. Yes, you should tell him. Babies suck and the landlord deserves to know before being saddled with your screaming child. It's about mutual respect.
posted by Aranquis at 6:52 PM on June 14, 2014 [13 favorites]

Adding to my note above, my experience. I have three kids, and two of them had some kind of colicky bullshit going on for the first four-five months of life. One of them once cried--screamed really--for 15 hours straight once. Your baby probably won't be quite so loud, but that kind of thing is not uncommon.
posted by Philemon at 6:55 PM on June 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Fair Housing Act does not apply to landlords that live in the building they rent out if the building has four or fewer units

Check your state laws. This was definitely the case in Massachusetts. I grew up in a two-family home that my parents owned and they were able to be choosier (or more discriminatory) with the people who lived there. The other thing to check is that the landlord will let you know if there is lead in the place and even though you might be able to legally make them go through a deleading process, that information might give you some idea of whether it's a place suitable for an infant.

In your situation, if it were me, I would tell them. Because if it were me and I were the landlord, I would want to know. Or if it were me and I was going to have a child, I'd want to be in a place where I was sure there would be domestic harmony with my neighbors (and who know, the landlord might be a child-lover or have his own noisy hobby, there are a ton of options her) However I am not you and this is one of those conscience things

Babies generally only cry when hungry, tired, sick or wet. Only total assholes can't deal with being around a baby for long enough for one of those things to be corrected.

I would like to politely as possible strenuously disagree with both of these assertions. I am not an asshole and I love children but I would also not willingly share a bedroom wall (or ceiling) with an infant that was not mine.
posted by jessamyn at 7:34 PM on June 14, 2014 [44 favorites]

If you tell him you're putting him in an awkward position legally. What if he was going to turn you down for unrelated reasons? Now he's worried about you suing.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:55 PM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would at least ask how well noise carries between the apartments or feel out how sensitive the landlord is to noise - like, say you got up at 5am to go to the gym, would that wake him up? Even if your kid isn't a cryer, at some point they'll be running around a lot or you'll be pacing around trying to comfort them late at night.

I like kids, and I try my darnedest to sympathize/empathize with both kids and parents when they're being noisy, but you're talking about being immediately overhead of someone in their home, specifically in a home that they own and can't easily move out of, and sleep deprivation is a serious, serious thing that can make people very grouchy in the long term.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:56 PM on June 14, 2014 [11 favorites]

Your potential landlord probably doesn't care. But anyway you shouldn't bring that up because what the fuck does he care, that would be weird. Etc.
posted by wrok at 9:57 PM on June 14, 2014

I live in a converted house with extremely thin walls and I am not particularly tolerant of small children noise (or any noise), and the neighbors behind me moved in with a baby and a toddler. And it has been occasionally slightly annoying, but it has never been enough for me to lose sleep or anything. I really think that concerns about how bad this would be for the landlord are seriously overblown.

However, because the FHA does not apply in this situation and it is going to be way easier to find another place now than to move with a baby immediately when your lease runs up, I would lean towards being honest if your landlord asks in particular if you expect to have children in the near future.
posted by Sequence at 11:20 PM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jessamyn is 100% correct. Secrecy about having a child would undermine your relationship with that person, and also create a negative interaction. That would be worse than just communicating straight up. Depending on your state, the landlord living in the 2-unit may be allowed to consider all sorts of issues, including noise from an infant.

And the lead paint issue is very serious. Here in Maine, with a 4-unit or less, we are not obligated to do abatement. But we are obligated to notify ALL potential tenants. Unfortunately, many landlords do not comply with that requirement, and you should definitely ask the landlord about that explicitly if the building was built before 1978.
posted by miss tea at 3:07 AM on June 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

When you have questions like this, it will useful if you sometimes picture your child not as a child, but as a herd of small, rambunctious goats. Sure, the goats are cute and delightful to you. You hardly notice the constant tromp of their little hooves! But for the person who shares your common wall, your little goats may just make their life a living hell. They will not think the constant din is charming, nor will they be able to tune it out. They will be dealing with the thomp-clomp-crash-screech-thump-crash-BAAAAAAH!!!!, all day, every day. Because of you.

Looked at in this light, you have a moral obligation to inform any landlord that you are planning to spawn. Other people, presumably PARENTS who have built up a nice thick crust of defensiveness over their noisy children, will huff about discrimination and how it's none of the landlord's goddamn business. But, please. Have some compassion and don't keep your little goat herd a secret.

Only total assholes can't deal with being around a baby for long enough for one of those things to be corrected.

OP, you need to really, really not listen ever when people say stuff like this. The "assholes" who complain about your screaming kids didn't sign up to deal with being constantly woken up by somebody else's child in the middle of the night. They were unlucky enough to share your common wall. Try to have some consideration.

My girlfriend wears earplugs AND headphones to bed, and the neighbors still wake her up hours before she has to go to work. They wake us up in the morning, wake me up when I've worked an overnight shift, they have other kids over constantly and they honk and toot and crash and it's so fucking loud we have to flee from the building for hours, just to stay sane. They are entitled, noisy jerks. Do not be those neighbors.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:45 AM on June 15, 2014 [11 favorites]

Only total assholes can't deal with being around a baby for long enough for one of those things to be corrected.

Yeah, there is something like a parental twilight zone about this. Once people have kids, then many of them seem to feel very strongly and self-righteously about this. Imagine that you had a yappy dog (which, on balance, an infant seems about the same level of annoying in terms of crying, etc.). Are your neighbors total assholes for not wanting to listen to your yappy dog? No. They get all of the pain of dog ownership with none of the perks. Same goes with your infant. Congrats, by the way!

I live next to a family of 9 sharing a three bedroom townhouse. It is a tall, narrow building and I literally share half of my walls with them. They have several small children, and one infant. But these are friendly, thoughtful people, and on the occasional instance I've heard a racket start up early in the morning or late at night, the parents or older sibs has immediately and insistently shushed them. I would be happy to live next to these people for the rest of my life.

It is all about approaching shared spaces with sensitivity and an awareness that your desires are not the only desires that need to be accommodated.

With all that said, I would still keep looking for another place in which you're not sharing a living space (and your floors) with your landlord. Baby or no, no good can come from that.
posted by arnicae at 8:02 AM on June 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

I agree with keep looking. You're worried about the effect that this will have on you, but what about the effect it will have on your landlord's poor sanity? Don't you care about that?

Have you ever lived below a couple with a baby/ toddler? I have, and it was an absolute nightmare. The way noise travels from floor above to ceiling below, in my experience, is way worse than through walls or in an upward direction. Stuff you think wouldn't make a lot of noise, does. Aside from the crying, every time something drops or is thrown on the floor- bam. Those rolling walker thingies? Sounded like a damn earthquake up and down the length of my apartment. I basically had no control over my own sleep schedule because it was SO LOUD UPSTAIRS all the time. I was a graduate student then- stressed enough already- and the number of times I was woken up at 4 or 5 am and unable to go back to sleep . . . it drove me to tears frequently. My anxiety and stress were through the roof. (I know, as parents, you have to deal with that too, but that's a choice you made; I didn't.) It's why I made two new rules for myself: number one, NEVER live in any apartment with people above me ever again. (Because as someone pointed out above, childless people don't necessarily stay that way either.) Number two: If I ever have children, do not live above anybody. Out of respect for them and their sanity and right to sleep.

When I was looking around for roommates more recently, one house-share I interviewed at had a pregnant woman who could have easily hidden it, but she chose to share it with me. I thought that showed a lot of respect and was a kind thing to do. It gave me the option to consider my options and I did end up living there (as the couple with the baby was 2 floors below, and not above me.) It ended up being fine, and I'm glad she told me. I think in this case you have to regard your landlord as a potential housemate, not just a landlord. Because in terms of noise, that's what he will be.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

In my area, there are different rules for non-discrimination depending on the housing size and if the landlord lives on site. A duplex where the landlord lives on site would NOT require non-discrimination, and the landlord doesn't really need a "good" reason to decline to rent to someone.

I imagine the landlord will ask you why you want to move (either in person or on the application). If/when they do, this is the time to say, you are moving to a bigger place because you are expecting.

Some landlord really don't care, or they like babies. Some landlords will hate it, and they would be really resentful having to deal with the noise.

Now, do you really want to be tenants to someone who doesn't like you? Do you want to be neighbors with someone who thinks you're taking advantage of him/her? Do you want to awkwardly share a yard with someone who thinks your bundle of joy is pure nuisance? Even if you hide your pregnancy and get the house, is it worth it?

I would say, don't talk about your pregnancy the whole tour, but don't hide it either. And if asked, answer honestly. If the landlord doesn't want to deal with a baby, it's not the right house for you.
posted by ethidda at 6:00 PM on June 15, 2014

wow, this is a fascinating thread partly because my main concern would be: how loud is your landlord and how pleasant or unpleasant might they be to live with/near? rather than the series of concerns your question and the comments suggest about how unpleasant *you* might be to live with/near. As a tenant, you should worry about what fits your needs, not the landlord's. If they can't deal with noise coming from their tenants - life noise that is as loud or louder than a baby crying - they should not rent out their upstairs apartment. I'd be willing to bet, too, that they have seen worse than you.
posted by bluedeans at 10:34 AM on July 8, 2014

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