I've been half-heartedly looking for an apartment for about a year or so. Every once in a while I see a listing that looks promising & go take a look. Most aren't nice enough to consider moving, but in the past month, two have been good enough for me to say, "Yes, this could be our new home," and take DH to see it. And he's liked them enough that we fill out an application. Both times we were turned down, and both times we were given very suspicious reasons. One said the other applicant was less risky because they were both employed (this, after agreeing with us that having a SAHP is better for the kids) and the most recent one said they were concerned about liability if our kids got hurt in the backyard (this, after we said the lease should/could/would specify that we accept that responsibility.)
I suspect we lost both of these apartments because we have kids. It's illegal to discriminate against families with children, but we have to disclose them on the application where it asks who will be living in the unit. I have sufficient income & a stable job, we have history of being long-term stable renters, we have glowing references from neighbors, we have strong ties to the neighborhood, we have the money for the deposit. Neither landlord has asked for a credit report, or for permission to run one, but there's nothing negative there except that we don't use credit. So there doesn't seem to be any good reason *not* to rent to us.
None of our friends with kids have encountered this when they've moved. In fact, a couple of our friends said their kids were a bonus because they moved into a building with other families the landlords apparently figured another family wouldn't complain about noise. DH & I were discussing what to do the next time we see something we like. Did we just get unlucky two times? Do we hide the kids? (Anyone know the risk in California of not disclosing minor children to a potential landlord?) Do we take the kids along so the landlord can see how well-behaved they are? Do we just be happy that we aren't giving our money to child-haters? Do we announce up front that we will sue for discrimination if we don't get the next place?