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The Fair Housing Act: a law even HOAs need to know about

As some of our Melbourne readers may agree, living in a neighborhood where there is a homeowners association can be both a blessing and a curse. While some residents may like the fact that theirs and their neighbor's lawn is always well maintained, some may not like the control that many HOAs have over the look of a property. In many cases, residents are even barred from the amount of decorations they can put up on their property.

But it's these types of rules that we want to look at in today's post because they can actually lead to litigation if HOA operators aren't careful. That's because enforcing certain rules may actually constitute as discrimination, which has been observed here in Florida as well as in other states.

It's because of a recent story out of Tennessee that we are talking about discrimination of homeowners today. The case, which some here in Florida may have read about, deals with a request made by an HOA for a homeowner to remove a wheelchair ramp because it did not comply with association rules. But as the homeowner explains, the ramp was for her husband who needed it because he had suffered a stroke. As some have already pointed out, the HOA's request violates the Fair Housing Act.

For those who don't know, the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing facilities from discriminating against a homeowner based on any of the classes established by the Civil Rights Act as well as familial status. Any enforcement of policies that would put an undue burden on a homeowner in one of these protected classes is considered a violation of the law because it would deny them their right to equal housing opportunities.

Just as housing facilities must abide by the law, so too do homeowners associations who must make reasonable exceptions for homeowners who would otherwise face discrimination by the enforcement of HOA rules. By failing to make these exceptions, an HOA risks litigation and the possibility of paying a settlement to the homeowner down the road.

Source: WSMV News, "HOA threatens to sue homeowner over wheelchair ramp," Hayley Mason, June 9, 2015

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