by Jaie Avila
Gilbert Carrillo thinks tattoos are an artform.
He's been to tattoo conventions, and one of his tattoos was featured in a magazine.
"Ever since I was 18, to now, 25, bit by bit, covering up here, covering up there," Carillo said.
But last month, Carrillo's tattoos kept him and his wife Melissa from moving into an apartment complex called the Villas at Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
"We liked the apartment; we brought them a check for the deposit, and a check for the application fee," said Melissa.
Later, Gilbert went by to look at the apartment wearing a short sleeve shirt. The next day, the Carrillos were told they didn't qualify to live there, because the tattoos on Gilbert's arms violated the policy on personal appearance.
"For them to be so judgmental on a person's appearance, and for them to judge someone based on them having a tattoo is just ridiculous, you know," Melissa said.
The Carrillos were also upset that the manager refused to refund their full application fee. But mostly, they feel the policy is discriminatory.
The manager of the Villas at Medical Center, Daisy Salazar, refused to comment.
"We have our own lawyers, I can't speak to anyone," said Salazar.
A statement sent via e-mail from one of the owners of the apartments, a southern California doctor named Edward Frankel, confirmed the policy.
Frankel said in the e-mail his apartment complexes do, in fact, "reject prospective tenants who have, tattoos exposed on the neck, head, hands and wrists, or large tattoos that cover over 40% of the lower or upper arm."
"We do not discriminate. The above applies to persons of any race, color, gender, etc," Frankel said.
Frankel, and his partners, have purchased numerous upscale apartment complexes in San Antonio and Dallas, where they've also banned pierced eyebrows and tongues.
Tenants can't have more than one nose piercing, or more than five earrings.
Local fair housing officials say the rules may be unusual, but they are not illegal.
"Refusing to rent to somebody because they have tattoos may be unfair, but it's not discrimination under the fair housing act, unless the tattoos are specific to the person's religion or national origin," said Sandy Tamez of the San Antonio Fair Housing Council.
The apartment complex refunded the Carrillos' full application fee after representatives from local NBC affiliate WOAI began investigating the case.
But the couple is still angry that a landlord would consider body art to be the mark of a bad tenant.