Today’s fair housing laws impose many obligations on homeowner associations as well as prohibit many seemingly reasonable actions by associations. And while there are many pitfalls, implementing the following practices will help you avoid stepping into what can be a snake pit of liability:
- Adopt a policy for handling requests for reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications in your community. Such policy will provide both the association and owners with a road map of the process for handling such requests.
- If you receive a request from a disabled individual in your community, do not hesitate to contact your lawyer. It may sound self-serving, but, fair housing laws contain many pitfalls for the unwary. An attorney can help you identify the association’s legal obligations and duties in each particular case.
- Enforce your covenants in a consistent manner. Picking and choosing who you will enforce your covenants against is never a sound practice, but it can be fatal in a fair housing setting.
- Engage the individual alleging discrimination or seeking an accommodation in an interactive dialogue. This can be achieved by inviting the person to the next board meeting or through written correspondence such as letters and e-mails. Work with the individual to create a solution to the situation that meets all parties’ needs.
Be professional at all times when addressing individuals alleging discrimination or seeking an accommodation. The topic of discrimination is often emotionally charged. Keep your emotions in check, as you may say something you later regret that exposes the association to liability.