Family child care providers who rent their home or apartment may face unexpected barriers to operating their business.
Their lease may include restrictive language prohibiting businesses or their landlord may withhold permission needed for a provider to get her license.
Here’s some ideas for how to address landlord opposition.
Identify the reason for the opposition
There can be many different reasons why a landlord might oppose family child care providers as tenants. It’s best to find out the one or more reasons upfront by asking the landlord, “What is the problem?” Oftentimes, when the issues are examined closely there really isn’t a problem. Explaining what family child care is and is not, can go a long way to resolving conflicts.
These are the objections I’ve heard and how to respond to them:
A. Too many children
Sometimes landlords don’t understand the difference between a center and a family child care provider. They might imagine hoards of children roaming the hallways and entryways. Make it clear how many children you are or will be in your care.
Don’t cite the maximum number of children allowed under your license if you intend to care for fewer children. You may want to seek agreement with the landlord on a cap on how many children (other than your own) that could be in the apartment at one time. In some situations, a provider who is caring for only a few children should be looked at like a large family. Landlords rent to large families all the time. If the landlord is concerned about damage to the apartment because of the number of children, he/she can impose a damage deposit to address this.
The landlord may be worried about lawsuits against him/her arising out of more children on the premises. If you have business liability insurance, it’s usually a simple matter to add the landlord as an “additional insured” under the insurance policy. This will provide coverage for the landlord at little, or no cost to you.
Landlords already have liability insurance to defend themselves against lawsuits. I think this concern is overblown. I don’t know of any lawsuits by parents against landlords when their child is injured in an apartment. If you don’t have business liability insurance you should get it. A provider who cares for only a few children and is not required to be licensed usually can’t get business liability insurance, yet landlords generally don’t object to such providers.
More children may mean more noise during the day, but not at night (when this might be an issue). If this is raised as an issue you could agree to some common sense practices: asking parents to keep noise down when dropping off and picking up, closing windows, scheduling outside activities for time that are the least disruptive, etc.
Noise usually only comes up if there have been previous complaints from neighbors about this. If so, you should try to negotiate directly with the neighbor to try to resolve the problem. If there haven’t been complaints, you could suggest that the landlord monitor this issue for the next six months and try to address any issue that might arise during that time.
D. Legal barriers
Under most state laws, landlords can restrict family child care providers from operating in their apartment complex. Usually, such restrictions are found in the lease which might prohibit business use. Such restrictions are to ensure that the property can be enjoyed as a residence. While it’s reasonable to have lease restrictions that prohibit fast food operations, printing presses and other commercial activities, running a family child care home can be distinguished from all other businesses.
Providers are using the apartment as a family would. There are no real noise or other issues association with typical businesses. There are probably other home-based businesses already operating in the apartment complex, so they shouldn’t single out family child care. Federally owned subsidized housing units (HUD) have, in the past, allowed family child care providers to operate even though there may be general restrictions against businesses.
2) Identify the benefits of a family child care provider as a tenant
Having a family child care provider in the apartment complex is not a deterrent or “problem.” Rather it is a benefit to the landlord. Here are some examples of the benefits of having a family child care provider in an apartment building:
A. A provider who is at home all day serves as an informal “neighborhood watch” in that she is around to see what is going on in the apartment complex. Other tenants who are gone during the day should feel more comfortable knowing that someone is there to watch out for strangers and keep an eye on things.
B. A provider is licensed and therefore meets a number of health and safety standards. This means that the children in her apartment may be safer than a child in her own home. I would identify several of the specific health/safety standards to show why it’s unlikely that children will be at risk: first aid training, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, criminal back ground checks, licensing/fire inspections, etc.
C. A family child care provider is likely to be a more stable tenant than most because she is self employed. She has created her own business and is committed to doing the work as shown by her becoming licensed.
D. The apartment complex will attract prospective tenants who have families with young children. Most families prefer to use a child care provider who is close to their own home. Having a provider in the apartment complex is therefore an added benefit. If I was a landlord I’d advertise the fact that there is a family child care provider in the apartment complex! Providers who already care for families that live in the apartment complex should point this out as evidence that they are offering a benefit to other tenants.
Before you buy or lease a home or apartment, check to see if there are any deed restrictions or objections from the landlord.
If you are having problems with a landlord or deed restriction, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-280-5991. It’s a free call.
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: philadelphiaattorneylawyer.com
I discuss some of these issues more specifically in my book Family Child Care Legal & Insurance Guide, chapter 14.