SEATTLE -- The United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that a landlord in Edmonds violated the Fair Housing Act by denying housing to applicants because they had children.

The suit is against Debbie A. Appleby, of Stanwood, who owns and manages three apartment buildings -- located at 201 5th Ave. N., 621 5th Ave. S., and 401 Pine Street in Edmonds.

The DOJ claims in March 2014 Ashley Sytsma called about an apartment for rent, leaving a message that she was married with a young child. She received a text back that all the apartments were for adults only, and therefore not available to her family.

"At first I was confused," she said. "And as I read the text messages and saw the communication, I just had this gut feeling that this isn't right."

So Sytsma did a little digging online and then texted back, pointing out The Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. She heard nothing back.

“Many families already face challenges finding affordable housing, and they should not also have to deal with unlawful discrimination,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The complaint also alleges that Appleby advertised available units as being restricted to adults only at various points between April 2014 and November 2015.

Ashley's husband Ryan was appalled, and says they took on this fight to prevent further discrimination and to set an example for their children.

"Hopefully they can say this inspires me to stand up for what is right as well. It's not always easy to stand up to a bully, but we need to," he said.

After the family filed the complaint, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted an investigation, issued a charge of discrimination against Appleby and referred the case to the DOJ.

The complaint seeks a court order requiring Debbie Appleby and her three LLCs to cease their discriminatory hosing practices, damages for the Sytsmas and any other families with children who were discriminated against, and civil penalties of an undetermined amount.

Debbie Appleby and her attorney could not be reached for comment.