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Increased Scrutiny on Community Associations by Fair Housing Advocates

Recently, several Kaman & Cusimano attorneys attended the 6th Annual Fair Housing Forum where several speakers presented material on recent developments in Fair Housing law. New scrutiny of condominium and homeowners association governing documents was one of the many issues discussed at this seminar.

Specifically, the General Counsel for the Fair Housing Center of Toledo reported that, although community associations have not been specifically targeted in the past, Fair Housing advocacy groups have recently reviewed governing documents of almost 600 community associations searching for “unacceptable” and “cautionary” language. Unacceptable language is that language that violates the Fair Housing Law on its face, such as “no children” in a non- 55 and older community.  Cautionary language is language that may indicate an unlawful preference or limitation that could lead to discrimination, such as prohibiting “toys” or “strollers.”  Cautionary language may lead to further investigation or testing, if discovered by the Fair Housing advocates.

The Fair Housing Forum also discussed issues with community associations and the disabled, and the Forum’s speakers noted a general lack of understanding on the part of some board members and property managers regarding the right of disabled individuals to have support animals and the improper imposition of “pet” restrictions on disable residents with service animals.

Given this increased scrutiny, community association board members and their professional property managers must be certain to adopt and enforce rules evenly and be cautious not to discriminate or indicate preference on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.