CONCORD -- Tenants of a Detroit Avenue apartment complex have filed a complaint against their landlord with the state, alleging they have been threatened with an illegal policy limiting the number of children they can have in their homes.
Longtime residents allege a change in ownership in September 2011 brought a change in attitude and tolerance of tenants of the Huntington Arms Apartments with young children.
A letter from the resident manager sent to tenants of the Huntington Arms in March stated one-bedroom apartments should have no more than three residents and two-bedroom units no more than five, and also set rules for supervision of children. If residents exceeded these numbers, the letter said, they should look for larger units, which the families took as a threat of eviction.
"It's very clear that kids bother her," Blanca Montiel said Monday, through a translator, about the Huntington Arms resident manager.
Montiel, her husband and their three children live in a two-bedroom unit with her husband and three kids.
"I felt like at any moment they could tell me to split," said Montiel, a 7-year tenant of the complex.
On Friday, Tenants Together -- a statewide organization advocating renters' rights -- filed the complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing on behalf of the Montiels and six other families within the 32-unit complex.
Leah Simon-Weisberg, legal director for Tenants Together,
Tenants Together measured the apartments of the seven families and said they are within the limitations set by the city of Concord. For example, Salomon and Areli Acosta's two-bedroom apartment is 426 square feet, which according to the city's housing code allows for eight people, said Simon-Weisberg.
Annmarie Billotti, chief of mediation for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, said the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits property owners from discriminating people based on familial status, meaning the presence of one or more children in a household.
"A housing practice may be unlawful if it is intended to exclude members of a protected class or has the effect of excluding a protected class," Billotti wrote in an email.
A knock at the Huntington Arms manager's door Monday went unanswered, and nobody answered the phone in the complex manager's office.
The complaint lists Peter Carlson of Virginia as the property owner and Teresa Lewis Ratcliff as the manager. Carlson could not be reached Monday for comment.
On Monday morning, about 20 Huntington Arms residents and members of Tenants Together staged a protest inside the complex, taping a notice of the complaint to the door of the apartment manager's office after no one responded to knocks on the door.
Earlier, a woman identified by residents as the resident manager called Concord police; two police units arrived but the officers did not disrupt the protest.
Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, said the environment at the Huntington Arms is part of a growing trend statewide.
"We view this as an egregious case, but it's not an isolated case," said Preston. "It's unfortunately common for landlords and property owners to discriminate against families with children."
Contact David DeBolt at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.