guest blog by Dave Russell
Each day I’m alerted to scores of cases where folks living in HOAs are denied reasonable accommodations for their disabilities. Some of these HOA denials are blatant violations of the Fair Housing Act, while some are not. I’m going to compare two recent cases that have grabbed the attention of the media. While both sound like truly legitimate cases, one homeowner did it right, and the other homeowner technically did it wrong.
Build it and they will come. The HOA that is!
After Michael Broadnax suffered a stroke late last summer, his wife became the head of the household. Charlotte Broadnax retrofitted her house with a small ramp so her husband could come home for rehabilitation. Now, the homeowners association for the Woodlands of Copperstone is threatening to sue the homeowners over the ramp.
Sounds like a clear-cut-case of a fair housing violation? The answer here is NO. Fair Housing allows for a reasonable accommodation, but you must ask your housing provider first. Yes, under the Fair Housing Laws, HOAs are considered ‘housing providers.’
“A resident is not entitled to receive a reasonable accommodation unless he/she asks for one.” (Nolan v. Starlight Homeowner Association)
In this case the homeowner just put up the wheelchair ramp and didn’t inform the HOA first. Of course the HOA will claim they had no idea Mr. Broadnax had become disabled. For all the HOA knows, the ramp could have been placed there just for the hell of it. Well, that’s what they’ll probably claim.
Doing it right
Shawn Seekings has a disabled son, and he needs a fence to accommodate his boys disability. Unlike Charlotte Broadnax, Mr. Seekings made a reasonable request to the HOA to accommodate his son’s disability. Shawn Seekings did everything right, he asked the HOA for a reasonable accommodation and even backed it up with a written request from a neurologist. Mr. Seekings was smart-enough not to put up the fence first and then ask his HOA for the reasonable accommodation.
The HOA in Mr. Seekings case will probably face a Fair Housing violation for denying the fence. Not only is this my professional opinion, it’s also the opinion of Florida attorney S. David Cooper. I can almost guarantee the Esprit HOA and their management company, Melrose Property Management, are going to get slapped with massive fines and settlement costs by HUD.
Knowledge is power! Especially when battling it out with your HOA over Fair Housing Laws. Make sure you fully understand your rights under the Fair Housing Act.