Community associations exist to make sure that residents receive fair treatment. While community associations are largely excluded from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which pertains to public accommodations, they remain subject to the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA generally prohibits certain types of discrimination in housing transactions. Community associations most frequently encounter the FHA in the context of a disabled resident. The FHA requires community associations to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled residents in an effort to “afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” What type of procedures should community associations employ to prevent running afoul of the state and federal regulations, thus risking costly, drawn-out litigation?
Community associations should first create interactive procedures to address accommodation requests. This process should provide a written application form (but, for legal reasons, should not require it). Additionally, everything else should be placed in writing if possible, whether it is communication with the applicant, minutes of a meeting or interview with the applicant, etc. In the event of a denial, it will be much easier to defend an allegation of impermissible discrimination.
Community associations should work expeditiously to review and either approve or disapprove the request. Unreasonable delay in addressing the issue could result in a constructive denial of the request, which could subject the community association to liability. Community associations are entitled to information that will enable it to make an informed decision, but there are limits on what a community association may obtain. The expedience with which the appropriate information is provided to a community association is factored into this inquiry. Community associations should issue a decision in writing and includes facts that appear in its written record.
I highly recommend that community associations engage counsel when facing a request for reasonable accommodation. Trevett Cristo is amply suited to assist community associations in a host of legal issues, including requests for reasonable accommodations under the FHA, pursuing past due common charges, and assisting with elections and owner disputes. Please contact William N. LaForte, Esq. or Colin R. Bruckel, Esq. if your community association is faced with any legal issue with which you need assistance.