Landlord changes policy on tenants

Rodgers Forge complex had turned down Hopkins student, 20, because of age

July 04, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Kristina Krasnov, a 20-year-old Johns Hopkins doctoral student, had the income, references and credit rating to qualify to rent an apartment at Rodgers Forge Apartments, a large Towson-area complex.

But she was told she couldn't live there because management did not allow rentals to anyone 18 to 22 years old.

"I'm trying to live in their apartment building and pay them money for it, what's the problem?" she asked.

Age discrimination was the problem - it is illegal to deny an apartment to someone on account of age in Baltimore County.

After learning that its policy - in effect for more than 20 years - was illegal after inquiries yesterday by a reporter, the apartment management company changed its rules. And Krasnov was offered an apartment.

"There was never an intent to break the law," said attorney Stuart Sagal, who represents management company Wallace H. Campbell and Co. As soon as Sagal confirmed that age discrimination is prohibited by county code, "that policy was changed," he said.

Unlike state and federal housing discrimination laws, county law protects people trying to rent homes from age discrimination, said Celestine Morgan, executive director of the Baltimore County Human Relations Commission. Such laws, she said, vary from county to county, but "our law basically is broad." She is aware of only a few complaints about age discrimination in housing since the law was passed in 1989.

The Rodgers Forge policy has been in effect at the 508-unit complex and at nearby Stevenson Lane Apartments - both just blocks from Towson University - for more than 20 years, said James A. Burtscher, senior vice president of Wallace H. Campbell. He said the owners "didn't think it worked well having students and ... people who were making their homes there."

By verifying they were in compliance with federal and state regulations, the company thought it had addressed all the legal issues.

"We don't want to discriminate against anyone" on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, marital status and anything else, Burtscher said.

Krasnov's was an unusual case because the complex would accept graduate students who meet income and other requirements, but most often those students were older than 22.

Krasnov, who came to the United States from Moscow when she was 9, learned to speak English and graduated from high school at the age of 16. She graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in May with a bachelor's degree in neuroscience.

Krasnov submitted an application and a $30 fee June 22 after talking to the Rodgers Forge leasing staff about her situation. They did not tell her about the age policy up front, a problem Burtscher said was an unfortunate error on the part of the leasing staff. After he saw her birth date, he rejected the application.

Krasnov was not familiar with the county law, but she thought it seemed wrong.

Krasnov's father, Vladimir Krasnov, who lives in Towson, tried to rent the Rodgers Forge apartment in his name but the policy also prohibited people between ages 18 and 22 from living there under any circumstances, including with family.

The management company will continue to require that the applicant occupy the unit, refuse to allow co-signers and reject "college students taking nine credits or more in a semester," as listed in their rental policy, which would be permitted under county law. But Sagal said, they realized that "they were trying to deal with a problem a little too broadly."

Once the legal requirements were clear, Burtscher reviewed Krasnov's application again and offered her the apartment.

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