In the classic film The Breakfast Club aspiring principal Richard Vernon watches over a brain, a basket case, an athlete, a princess, and a criminal, during a Saturday detention. Does this sound like your Board? The day at Shermer High School is an entertaining one, with this “Breakfast Club” of rapscallions being largely misunderstood by the watchful Mr. Vernon.
Just as Mr. Vernon watched over the Breakfast Club, the Colorado Civil Rights Division watches your actions when it comes to your treatment of a disabled individual’s request for a reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification. Unlike Mr. Vernon and the Breakfast Club, the process for handling a request for a reasonable accommodation or modification is a serious one and should not be taken lightly.
You may or may not be aware, but the federal and Colorado fair housing laws apply to homeowner associations. These laws require an association to make reasonable accommodations and modifications for disabled residents in the community, when requested. A reasonable accommodation is an alteration to the association’s covenants, rules, regulations, policies or services to provide the person equal use and enjoyment of the home. A reasonable modification is an alteration made to the building, common elements or limited common elements to provide the person equal use and enjoyment of the home.
The CCRD is the state agency charged with ensuring your compliance with these laws. These laws are often times unknown or misunderstood, which leads to treatment of a disabled person that may be considered illegal by the CCRD. A board’s intentions can be easily misunderstood or worse misguided, which invites a discussion among you, your lawyer and the CCRD. This is about as fun as a Saturday detention – not that I have been there.
One of the best means to avoid this scenario, besides consulting with your lawyer, is to adopt a reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification policy. The policies are beneficial for a variety of reasons, but primarily because they provide a road map for the homeowners and the association to follow. The policies are similar to your SB100 and SB89 policies that guide the parties about how a particular issue will be addressed. It outlines each party’s responsibilities and provides a format for a dialogue to take place.
The policy also illustrates that the association takes its legal responsibilities seriously. Just as the responsible Associations quickly adopted their SB100 and SB89 policies, a responsible association takes the lead other legal on all legal obligations. Adopting a policy is an affirmative statement to the members in your community that you take these responsibilities seriously and are sensitive to the rights of your disabled community.
A third benefit is it establishes a written policy for future boards to follow. Boards frequently experience turnover and a written policy such as this provides the future board the road map discussed above. Further, the policy is designed to create a paper trail that future boards can use to review and determine how a similar request was handled in the past. This allows for consistency.
Overall, the policies will help your board address a request for a reasonable accommodation or modification from a disabled person in a fair and legal manner. Our experience is that most associations do not have such a policy, despite its tremendous benefits. We encourage all associations to adopt such a policy and become a member of this exclusive club. It is far better than becoming a member of the misunderstood Breakfast Club.
As you know, being a member of this club guarantees you a Saturday detention or worse, a visit with the CCRD. Just as Mr. Vernon stated to John Bender, “you mess with the bull, you get the horns.” Adopting a reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification policy is your first step to avoiding this unpleasant experience; because make no mistake, it will be an unpleasant experience.