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When someone hears that an apartment complex has a rule that requires adults to supervise their children, the rule doesn’t really seem like a bad idea, does it? It seems like common sense. Who would be against such a rule? Kids shouldn’t be running around an apartment complex without their parents supervising them, right?

Generally speaking, everybody agrees that children should be supervised. It’s good parenting. But should an apartment complex have the authority to mandate such a rule? In other words, should an apartment complex have the right to evict a family with children from an apartment complex if the family’s children play outside unsupervised?

If you agree that an apartment complex should be able to evict a family with children if the family’s children were playing outside unsupervised, then would you feel comfortable with an apartment complex telling parents what time they should put their children to bed? How about an apartment complex telling parents what to feed their children? For everyone knows that if you give a child too much sugar, then the child will be full of energy and likely noisy. And no one wants unnecessary noise in an apartment complex, right? So where is the line?

There is something wrong with apartment complexes being able to threaten a family with children with eviction if their children play (or simply are) outside unsupervised. The problem has to do with justice. Justice, in a nutshell, is giving to each his due. In California, every citizen (including children) has an individual right to “full and equal” access to “all business establishments.” So a landlord who requires adult supervision of children invades on the child’s individual right to full and equal access of the apartment complex. Adult supervision rules effectively limit when children can use the apartment complex to times when their parents are supervising them. As a result, it is an injustice for a child to not have full and equal access of the apartment complex. That right is his or her due. Before you say that’s absurd, let’s look at the nature of rights.

Rights define for each of us the sphere of sovereignty from which others are excluded. For example, as an American, you have the right to free speech. You can talk and the government cannot stop you from saying what’s on your mind. Do you want to criticize the governor or the president? You have the right to do so. As Sir Roger Scruton, the English philosopher, put it, “A right belongs to the fence that defines my sovereign territory: by claiming it, I put an absolute veto on things that you might do.” Scruton continues, “A freedom right imposes a general duty on others to observe it.” He goes on to explain that a person’s rights do not impose an onerous burden for others to bear. Rather, rights are respected by non-invasion. Hence there is no requirement that a landlord do anything for the family with children. Instead, the landlord simply needs to not invade the family’s (including the child’s) right to fully and equally access the apartment complex.

Often people are offended by the fact that a child has an individual right to fully and equally access the apartment complex. But they fail to factor into the equation that parents actually love their children and are concerned for their well-being. But some parents believe that their children are fine outside playing on their own. Others completely disagree. But that’s the nature of parenting. Parenting decisions about when to allow children to be outside unsupervised are the domain of parents, not landlords. Landlords are obligated to provide full and equal accommodations to an apartment complex to all persons, including children; they are not free to override children’s sovereignty. In the end, everyone is concerned about children’s safety, but children do have rights, which must not be invaded upon. And children also have parents, whose parental decisions should not be dictated by the landlord’s wishes.

Post Author: Stuart E. Fagan

Fair housing litigator with over 25 years' experience accepting cases in California.