Disabled and living in an HOA?

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.

(link to KPHO story on wheelchair controversy)

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.

(link to story on fence battle over autistic child)

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.

(your rights under federal housing law)


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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 “Disabled and living in an HOA?

  1. Nila Ridings

    This is the “other” trap of buying into an HOA.

    You buy the property. You pay the taxes, insurance, maintenance, and HOA dues. But should you need a wheelchair ramp to be able to access your home, you must get permission from the HOA board. So, let’s say this couple is paying $7,000 per month for him to be in a care center and he obviously cannot come home without the ramp for his wheelchair. If the board takes 6 months to decide whether or not he can have the ramp or not, this couple could potentially spend $42,000 at a care center, the cost of the ramp would probably be $2,000, and the cost of an attorney since they didn’t follow proper procedures they will no doubt need one and that could cost another $20,000 easily. So the wheelchair ramp ends up costing $64,000.

    Plus, the HOA will spend $20,000 fighting the ramp so adding that on it’s now an $84,000 wheelchair ramp!

    That’s pretty much true to the way things work in an HOA. A $2,000 project ends up being an $84,000 project every time. And if the HOA does not approve the wheelchair ramp all that expense is for nothing and the man and his wife deal with massive stress at a time when they least need the headaches!

    When we say HOAs destroy lives, health, happiness, and financial well-being it is easy to understand why.

  2. Deborah Goonan

    This reminds of a game we used to play as children: Mother, may I? One person was “mother” and the others would each ask, in turn, “Mother, may I take two steps?” Then mother would say yes or no. Of course, mother could control who would be allowed to advance toward the goal. Mother could pick winners and losers.

    Only in the case of the HOA, it’s not a game, and the question is “HOA Enforcers, may I…?”

    Taken one step further, I’ll bet the local government also requires a construction permit for a wheelchair ramp. But at least they won’t refuse to allow you to build it altogehter.

  3. Nila Ridings

    Perfect analogy, Deborah!

    HOAs are just like the game “Mother May I” with the exception that if treated unfairly you could walk away and not play with those kids anymore. As we know, in the HOAs of America the HOA boards will take very good care of those on the board and the cronies but if you question them in anyway, look out! The answer will always be, NO! They won’t respond to your emails, letters, phone calls, or even your attorney. The “HOA Enforcers” know it’s their game, their rules, they have all the money, and they have the power to destroy you, let your house rot to the ground, and then play oh so innocent in the courtroom as if they were just a bunch of Polly Anna’s that have no clue what being a bully even means.

  4. Nila Ridings

    If anyone thinks people love HOAs they should read the hundred of comments on the link to this story! http://americanoverlook.com/this-pastor-is-in-a-wheelchair-and-uses-a-ramp-outside-his-home-but-now-his-hoa-is-demanding-this/50701?fb_comment_id=812846815477118_813655158729617&comment_id=813601238735009&reply_comment_id=813655158729617&offset=0&total_comments=16#ffdd8e5d

    Personally, it warms my heart when I see a bullied homeowner stand up and contact the media. It’s the exposure from these stories that help us educate those who haven’t got a clue about the TRUTH about HOAs.

    By making comments on these stories, I have connected with HOA victims all across America. It is a great way for activists to get the word out about resources for learning and supporters for our mission of waking up the legislators.


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