We have noticed an increased filing of Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) Complaints in the past year. These complaints can be costly and rather embarrassing if not properly addressed in the early stages of an investigation by the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Typically, the complaints allege discriminatory practices for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation to a handicapped individual, for selective enforcement of the covenants against a minority, or enforcement of rules that discriminate against children. The following is a checklist of actions you should take and documents you should gather to assist your attorney in responding to the CCRD Complaint:
- Immediately submit the Complaint and Request for Information to your insurance carrier. As with any potential lawsuit, it is extremely important to place your insurance carrier on notice of the claim or potential claim. Broader D&O insurance policies will provide coverage for this type of claim.
- Contact your attorney and advise him/her of the complaint. Get your attorney on-board immediately so he/she can assist you with preparing a response that will highlight the association’s defenses.
- Note the date of the Request for Information. A CCRD Complaint is always accompanied by a Request for Information. You have ten days to file a response to the CCRD’s Request. This is another reason to contact your attorney immediately.
- Review the Request for Information and note all documentation and information the CCRD is expecting to receive in your response. The documents listed below are typically the requested documents. But remember, this is your opportunity to tell your story and if any additional documents exist that assist in telling your story, but are not specifically identified in the Request, they should be included.
- Gather all correspondence between the parties, including letters, e-mails, architectural submittals, and any corresponding denials. A request for a reasonable accommodation is often contained in an e-mail or letter to the association. The contents in this letter are often critical, as it dictates the association’s response. Further, often times a request for a reasonable accommodation requires some medical documentation to verify the handicap. This information should be identified and provided to your attorney as well.
- Identify any covenant provisions, rules and regulations or resolutions adopted by the Board that govern the Board’s actions. These provisions can be highlighted to show that the board was acting pursuant to its governing documents or adopted procedures that apply to all residents.
- Gather any other documents that evidence communication between the parties such as phone logs or notes. It is not uncommon for the community manager or board of directors and the complainant to converse over the phone or at a board meeting about the issue. If you maintained notes of the conversation through a phone log or meeting minutes, you should tell your attorney about the document and the extent of the conversation.
- Gather all meeting minutes where the Complainants were in attendance and discussed the issue. As noted above, these issues are addressed at the board meeting from time to time. The meeting minutes can be a good source to explain the association’s position. Further, many complainants do not appear at the board meetings or hearings, which can be used to illustrate a complainant’s indifference towards the issue.
- Gather any photographs that evidence the Complainant’s covenant violation or any similar covenant violations. Evidence like this can be used to show that a violation existed and that the complainant was not singled-out.
- Gather any documents that generated the covenant violation, such as a complaint from a homeowner or community manager notes. As mentioned above, this can be used to illustrate that the complainant was not singled-out and that the association was acting on a complaint by another homeowner.
- Prepare a list of all covenant violations in the community. This list is particularly helpful with complaints that allege selective covenant enforcement. Often times, these lists can be used to illustrate the numerous other covenant violations in the community, the association’s pursuit of those violations, and many times, violations that are similar to the complainant’s violation.
- If maintained, copy the list of individuals that have previously been provided a reasonable accommodation in the community. If this list is not maintained, a review of the homeowner list may be used to identify other individuals that received a reasonable accommodation. This can be used to show that the association accommodates handicapped individuals, when possible.
It takes many months to resolve complaints of this nature. By understanding how to respond upon receipt of a complaint the association can keep this time period as short as possible.