In Pennsylvania, age (over 40) is a protected class under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Discriminating against individuals over the age of 40 in housing can result in a complaint being filed against you with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission or in state court. Remember, it is also illegal to discriminate against families with children under the age of 18 unless, the property is designated specifically for individuals age 55 and up under the Housing for Older Person Act (HOPA). So where does that leave individuals who are between the ages of 19–39? The short answer is there is no legal prohibition against discrimination towards individuals in that age group based solely on their age. If they are members of another protected class (race, national origin, religion, disability, etc.) and are discriminated against because of one of these factors then they would be protected from discrimination.
Landlords can fall into legal pitfalls in relation to age discrimination in Pennsylvania by discriminating against individuals who are over the age of 40. Refusing to rent to someone over the age of 40 (just as with any other protected class) must be based on reliable, objective, verifiable evidence or a failure to qualify because of income, credit, criminal records or other objective nondiscriminatory tenant screening criteria.
Examples of age (over 40) discrimination:
- Showing a preference to younger tenants over equally qualified older tenants because you want to have a “young vibe” at your properties
- Refusing to rent to elderly individuals because of assumptions about fall risk or other safety concerns
- Refusing to rent to older individuals because you feel that their current income will not be sustained if they retire from employment
Remember that elderly tenants may have age-related disabilities which may qualify them for reasonable accommodations such as reminders that rent is due, providing a lease and/or any written communication in large print, allowing payments by check rather than through an online portal, or allowing reasonable modifications to make the unit accessible.