Child Discrimination in HOAs Illegal!

      6 Comments on Child Discrimination in HOAs Illegal!
guest blog by Dave Russell (community association manager)
Last week Minnetonka residents of a condo complex won a massive settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit contending that a ban on playing in the grass illegally discriminated against families with children.The settlement agreement, announced last Friday, by U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, means that the Greenbrier Village Homeowners’ Association Inc. and Gassen Company Inc. must establish a new nondiscrimination policy and pay a $10,000 penalty to the federal government and $100,000 to six families.  We all know well who is going to foot the bill for this one. Don’t we?
 
Just days after the Minnetonka settlement another HOA in California was making headlines for smacking homeowners with $50 fines for basically the same thing.  It appears that the Agave and Saguaro HOA in Chula Vista , California prohibits a number of kid-friendly activities in their development. This HOA prohibits their resident children from riding skateboards, bicycles, roller-skates or anything with ‘wheels’ on their driveways, common areas, sidewalks or streets. So what gives with these kooky rules?
 
Well the reporters down at ABC 10 News went to Prescott Management (the management company for Agave and Saguaro HOA) to ask that very question. The HOA manager claimed that some of those rules were for the ‘safety of children.’  Are these ‘safety concerns’ really legitimate?
 
While I completely understand the need for kids to be able to play in their communities, what happens if something goes terribly wrong? Hypothetically, let’s say this HOA changes their rules and a child gets mowed down by a car in the driveway. Whose fault is it? Well that’s the question the parents attorneys will be asking.
 
The argument can easily be made that the HOA should have adopted rules restricting children from playing in dangerous areas, such as driveways. One has to remember, attorneys are always searching for the deepest pockets when it comes to lawsuits and settlements. Unfortunately, those deep pockets always belong to the HOA and their insurance carriers.
 
HOAs and community managers seem to be in a real pickle here. If you restrict child-friendly activities, even if they may be dangerous, the HOA could be sued for a fair housing violation. If you don’t have safety rules in place, and a child gets hurt, the HOA still gets sued if something goes ‘terribly wrong.’ When it’s all said and done, and dust settles from the lawsuits,  it’s the homeowners who will foot the bill once again. Well, don’t they always?
 
So what’s the solution to this seemingly new legal issue of Children vs. HOA’s? A large part of this problem was actually created by the developers themselves, who poorly designed these communities, and without children in mind. Very rarely do you see a developer put in a kid-friendly area where kids can just be kids. And for some reason if the developer does build a kid-friendly area, it’s always across a busy road like the development in the Minnesota case.  It’s all about jamming in as many units into one confined space as possible for profit.
 
There’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a magnitude of new lawsuits from homeowners and federal agencies like Fair Housing. These lawsuits are going to cost homeowners billions of dollars and make HOA insurance premiums skyrocket!  In my opinion, the best solution to this newly found problem is to stop building these damn liabilities!
 
If you ever needed another reason not to buy into an HOA……make sure that you add this one to the top of your list!
 
Please follow and like us:

Please follow & like us :)

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
Google+
http://neighborsatwar.com/2015/04/child-discrimination-in-hoas-illegal/">
SHARE
YOUTUBE
PINTEREST
LINKEDIN

About Ward Lucas

Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

6 thoughts on “Child Discrimination in HOAs Illegal!

  1. Deborah Goonan

    Dave, you are correct about the Association’s liability challenges.

    There’s simply no reason that children cannot use their skates and skateboards on sidewalks, because these are pedestrian alternatives to walking. Bicyclists, by necessity, must learn to share the roads with cars and other vehicles.

    Using driveways is not necessarily dangerous if residents are watching out for the kids, and particularly during times of the day when people are not coming and going from their homes, such as weekday rush hours. I remember my friends and I learning to ride and skate on driveways, sidewalks and streets (we lived in a cul-de-sac), and my son and his friends did the same thing. It’s a matter of teaching kids how to be safe, and getting drivers to slow down.

    The difference, as you aptly point out, is that, outside HOA-Land, there is no deep-pocketed corporate Association to sue when accidents happen. What’s really needed here is reform of our legal system as well as phasing out of corporate HOA governance with all of its liability risks.

    At the same time, building codes need to allow for safe recreation areas where children – and adults – can get fresh air and exercise.

    And in the meantime, perhaps some of these HOAs should allow children to use sidewalks and should consider creating at least one outdoor child safety zone that can be made available during certain hours of the day, weather permitting. As long as the Association takes proper precautions, and posts appropriate signage to alert drivers and warn children and parents of unsafe zones, they should be able to reduce their risk of a lawsuit.

    Reply
  2. Cynthia

    Thank you Dave Russell for writing about this and Ward Lucas for posting it. When I saw this news account, I was livid, as I have been requesting and literally pleading for HOA investigations of this sort, and specifically the HOA abuse of children, the disabled, single female, single parent households in Pennsylvania, and more specifically, Monroe County, Pennsylvania for over a decade. I have contacted repeatedly legislators, Senators, Congress, countless members of the press, US Attorneys and more. Yes, for the most part the majority are just interested in finding out about the HOA abuses, horrors, discrimination, legal abuses and property thefts for their own self serving interests, I believe and appears to be the case. Yes, they want to find out how this information can best serve them and their friends and do nothing. This is an email I sent to one US Attorney in Pennsylvania who appears to have some character, conviction and respect for the law, but is also very familiar with many of the HOA abuse, discrimination, criminality and property theft cases in certain areas of Pennsylvania, like Monroe County, PA and those who have, and continue to refuse to do anything to these criminals, despots, and predators!

    03.20.15 – COA (HOA) – Minnesota – Discrimination lawsuit against condo assoc.- Minnetonka condo residents win settlement in federal lawsuit, http://www.startribune.com

    One, US Attorney in Minnesota has it right, when it comes to the discrimination handed out by far too many abusive COAs (HOAs)! What is wrong with the US Attorney’s in Pennsylvania and some other states? Don’t those who are victimized and discriminated against by abusive COAs, or HOAs and their attorneys, due to disability, or due to gender, or possibly elder, or family status, in Pennsylvania, have rights that deserve to be defended too? Apparently not, as the COA,or HOA discrimination victims in Pennsylvania just get their homes stolen too, because those who should be investigating and prosecuting could care less. Don’t all US Attorneys know elder, disabled, and other vulnerable households are selectively discriminated against for these abuses and property thefts? They are also targeted, farmed and combed for greed driven reasons, as well! Thank you US Attorney, Andrew Luger for doing the right thing by these families. Maybe, you can call the Pennsylvania US Attorney’s, and some other states, US Attorney’s, and give them some pointers! Better yet, educate them on the range of intentional and willful COA, and/or HOA abuses of vulnerable populations, and single, or single parent households.

    Minnetonka condo residents win settlement in federal lawsuit
    http://www.startribune.com/local/west/297056501.html
    Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
    Updated: March 20, 2015 – 8:35 PM

    Suit accused Minnetonka condo association of discriminating against families with children.
    Excerpt:
    “Minnetonka residents of a condo complex have won a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit contending that a ban on playing in the grass illegally discriminated against families with children.

    The settlement agreement, announced Friday by U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, means that the Greenbrier Village Homeowners’ Association Inc. and Gassen Company Inc. must establish a new nondiscrimination policy and pay a $10,000 penalty to the federal government and $100,000 to six families.

    “Housing discrimination has no place in Minnesota,” Luger said in a statement. “This case reaffirms the long-held principle of our civil rights laws that families come in all shapes and sizes. Arbitrary rules that restrict the rights of children to enjoy the places where they live are not acceptable.””

    http://www.startribune.com/local/west/297056501.html
    Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
    Updated: March 20, 2015 – 8:35 PM

    Suit accused Minnetonka condo association of discriminating against families with children.
    Excerpt:
    “Minnetonka residents of a condo complex have won a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit contending that a ban on playing in the grass illegally discriminated against families with children.

    The settlement agreement, announced Friday by U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, means that the Greenbrier Village Homeowners’ Association Inc. and Gassen Company Inc. must establish a new nondiscrimination policy and pay a $10,000 penalty to the federal government and $100,000 to six families.

    “Housing discrimination has no place in Minnesota,” Luger said in a statement. “This case reaffirms the long-held principle of our civil rights laws that families come in all shapes and sizes. Arbitrary rules that restrict the rights of children to enjoy the places where they live are not acceptable.””

    Reply
  3. Dave Russell

    I could point out many examples of where associations have been sued because of child related injuries or deaths on their property.

    In 2013, a lawsuit stemmed from a horrible traffic accident. A young boy riding a bicycle died after being hit by a car in the condominium community. The jury agreed with the parents of the boy who argued that overgrown hedges obstructed the sight lines so the driver couldn’t see the boy and the boy couldn’t see the car. The driver was only found 10 percent responsible for the damages, because the jury said that 90 percent of the blame rested on the association and the management company for failing to have the hedges trimmed appropriately.

    http://www.floridacondohoalawblog.com/2013/04/articles/operations/liability-operations/property-managers-not-immune-from-claims-by-owners/

    HOA’s are simply not child friendly, and are a liability for every homeowner. Maybe the developers should be required by law to provide a safe play area for children. That’s probably a pipe-dream, but it would be a great idea.

    Our Association was sued in 2007 when an unsupervised 10 year old fell from a block wall and suffered a broken arm. The Plaintiff’s contended ‘if there would have been a sign on the wall ‘No Climbing on Walls’ the accident could have been avoided.

    Our Association contended, if the parents would have been properly supervising their 10 year old child, the accident wouldn’t have occurred.

    The rules clearly stated, ‘all children under 12 must be supervised.’ The parents of the 10 year old were not even home at the time of the accident.

    Our association prevailed, but not until 30K was expended in legal fees and a 20% increase in insurance premiums for over 5 years.

    Reply
    1. Deborah Goonan

      Yes, I recall reading about this lawsuit involving the hedges not being trimmed. Very tragic for the family.

      Even in my non-HOA homes, the local municipality had ordinances that prohibited planting hedges or installing fences in such a way as to block the view of an intersection. For this very reason.

      Reply
  4. Jeremy

    What was done here by the condo complex and especially Gassen Companies (professional property management who is supposed to help guide complexes to the correct compliance – not engage in discrimination) is reprehensible.

    Reply
  5. Bill Pearn

    Hi Lucas

    I have an HOA story for you.
    I get sued for dues by an association I don’t even belong to.
    I am not on their plot maps.
    This has been going on since 2007.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *