guest blog by Deborah Goonan
Wow! Sometimes I read about egregious HOA acts of discrimination that boggle the mind.
This is one of those times.
Gary and Renee Kuhn are the parents of a severely disabled adult daughter. Khrizma has Down’s Syndrome, autism, chronic digestive problems, scoliosis, and the intellectual capacity and functionality of a 2-year old child.
In 2005, they purchased a home in The Fountains at McNary Estates, making them subject to not one, but two, sets of HOA restrictions.
For the first five years of residence, Khrizma lived with her parents part time. Beginning in 2010, their daughter became a full-time resident. In 2014, her medical condition worsened, causing Khrizma to experience urgent bowel movements. Unable to care for herself, the Kuhns must provide round-the-clock care, which includes quick access to toilet facilities and access to a shower for clean up after use of the toilet. The curvature of Khrizma’s spine makes it necessary for her to lie down when being transported to various medical appointments and treatment centers.
The Kuhn’s were faced with the difficult dilemma of how to best care for their daughter’s needs, particularly during transport to and from appointments and medical treatment. In conjunction with her doctors, it was determined that the best solution would be to purchase a specially equipped RV with toilet and shower facilities, as well as a bed for her to rest. The doctors recommended parking the RV in the driveway for immediate access as needed. However, HOA rules prohibit parking of RVs in driveways.
Khrizma’s doctor provided a written explanation of the necessity of accommodating the family’s need to care for their disabled daughter, and the Kuhns made several requests for reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act, both at the federal and state levels.
Both McNary Estates and The Fountains HOAs denied those requests, under the advice of their attorney, Kevin Harker, owner of Community Associations Law Group in Portland, Oregon. Harker insists that the HOA is not obligated to provide accommodation for the RV, as it is merely a method of transportation, and does not involve Khrizma’s use and enjoyment of the dwelling itself.
I told you it was egregious.
Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) vehemently refutes Harker’s claims, but the HOAs both stood firm in their convictions to deny the civil rights of Khrizma and her parents. FHCO informed both HOAs that Kuhns were legally entitled to park an RV in their driveway, and, after months of delay, the Kuhns proceeded to do just that. The HOA immediately began threatening to sue the Kuhns in order to force them to remove their RV.
According to the complaint, several of the Kuhn’s neighbors, two of them former HOA Board members, allegedly engaged in hostile behavior, including spying on the Kuhn’s from the residence across the street.
This is a common theme we see repeated in Association Governed Residential Communities all over the US. The Board often discredits and demonizes homeowners with whom they disagree. Many homeowners then either avoid the alleged “troublemaker” or engage in further harassment.
The family was forced to sell their home to remove themselves from the hostile environment, and to obtain necessary accommodations for their daughter’s disabilities.
The story has been covered by Oregonlive.com, and includes a link to the Legal Complaint filed on behalf of the Kuhns by their Civil Rights attorneys, Dennis Steinman and Scott J. Aldworth, of Keller, Alterman, & Runstein, based in Portland, Oregon.
Upon reading the complaint, I was able to discover some disturbing claims brought by the Kuhns:
- Richard LeDoux, President of The Fountains HOA, has physically and verbally threatened Mr. Kuhns. He has also engaged in what appears to be a smear campaign by emailing all Fountains HOA residents claiming the HOA has no legal obligation to accommodate an RV in the driveway.
- Both Teresa Girod, President of McNary Estates HOA, and LeDoux have led their respective Boards to deny reasonable accommodation not only for parking the RV in the driveway, but also to honor a request made by the Kuhns to move the location of board meetings from the personal homes of Board members to the HOA clubhouse, a facility that is ADA compliant.
- The HOA has attempted to force Kuhns into mediation over their request for accommodation, and to binding arbitration over their refusal to remove the RV from their driveway.
- In the process of selling and moving to a new home, the Kuhns were forced to spend $76,000 more on the new house, and had to vacate their former home for a month before they could close on their new home. That meant they had to spend thousand of dollars to live in a cramped hotel room. The unexpected extra expense forced them to sell their car. This situation caused immense stress for both Khrizma and her parents. Mr. Kuhn had to be placed on medication for anxiety related to extreme stress during that period of time.
A few other nuggets:
- The Kuhn’s attorneys, Steinman and Aldworth, are noted experts in Civil Rights litigation in the Portland area. They are demanding a jury trial.
- McNary Estates HOA’s attorney, Kevin Harker, is the owner of Community Associations Law Group, a member of Community Associations Institute (CAI) Oregon and Utah Chapters. He has been a speaker at CAI national conferences in 2013 and 2010. The topic of his 2010 speech was “Keeping out the Riff-Raff: Making Your Community Safe.” He has co-authored the 2006 Washington (state) HOA Handbook.
- According to the news release, McNary HOA has been involved in a previous Fair Housing lawsuit, which they lost.
It appears that HOA members will be on the hook for more legal expenses, which may very well be denied by their insurance policy. Stay tuned for updates.