Discrimination Against College Students Legal?

A South Carolina court upheld a condominium restriction prohibiting rentals to college students. The ruling of a South Carolina court in not binding in Washington, but it demonstrates how a Washington court may decide a similar issue. The 2015 case, The SPUR at Williams Brice Owners Association, Inc. v. Lalla, concerns a condominium property located next to the University of South Carolina. The condominium master deed prohibited renting a unit to a student enrolled in college. The Lallas began renting their unit to college students after the recession hit. The association sued the Lallas to enforce the student rental restriction. The Lallas claimed that the restriction was void due to changed economic circumstances. The trial court ruled in the association’s favor. The Lallas appealed, asserting that the restriction discriminated against a class of people, college students. Under the Equal Protection Clause of the State and Federal Constitutions, a classification must have a reasonable relationship to the purpose of the restriction, members of the class must be treated alike, and the classification must have some rational basis. The appeals court ruled in favor of the association, finding that the rental restriction is rationally related to protecting the safety, comfort, and investment of the owners. The court noted that college students are not part of a protected class. The court also found that the restriction was not a fair housing violation and that changed economic conditions did not support invalidating the rental restriction because the units’ decreased value had no effect on the need to protect against a dormitory-like atmosphere. As always, if your Association is considering the adopting of any rental restriction, we encourage you to seek advice from your attorney.
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