The federal lawsuit contends landlord Debbie A. Appleby violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent to families with children.

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The U.S. Department of Justice sued the landlord of three Edmonds apartment buildings on Friday, alleging she and her rental firms refused to rent apartments to families with children, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.

“The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from denying apartments to families just because they have children,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a news release Friday. “Many families already face challenges finding affordable housing, and they should not also have to deal with unlawful discrimination.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, contends the housing-act violations occurred at three Edmonds rental properties, at 201 Fifth Ave. N., 621 Fifth Ave. S. and 401 Pine Street, managed by Debbie A. Appleby, of Stanwood.

Appleby controls three limited-liability corporations that own the buildings and that are also named as defendants.

The suit alleges that in March 2014, Appleby told a woman seeking an apartment for herself, her husband and their 1-year-old child that the rental properties were “adult only” and not available to her family. The suit also contends Appleby or her firms advertised available apartments in the three buildings as restricted to adults only during various times from April 2014 to November 2015.

The family later filed a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which later investigated and issued a discrimination charge against Appleby and her firms. HUD also referred the case to the Justice Department.

Appleby did not immediately respond to a voice message left for her Friday.

The Fair Housing Act bars discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, gender, familial status, national origin and disability.

The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring Appleby and her firms to cease discriminatory housing practices; damages for the family that filed the HUD complaint and any other families discriminated against because they had children; and civil penalties.