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Condo | HOA Lawyers

Can a Group Home be Built in a Single Family Association under the FHA – YES

Facts

Plaintiff, Harmony Haus and a resident, sued Defendant, Parkstone Property Owners Association (“Association”) under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) seeking an injunction and attorney fees for violation of the Civil Rights Act.  Association counter sued alleging breaches of deed restrictions.  Plaintiff is a sober living residence for individuals recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction.  Plaintiff residents come directly from an inpatient treatment center.  Association argued Plaintiff was violating its “single family residential use,” its noise and nuisance provisions and its unsightly vehicle provision.  The board of the Association can enforce any violation with a fine.  Plaintiff’s seek exceptions to the Declaration under the FHA by requesting reasonable accommodation, with the specific accommodation to allow 12 residents and 8 cars to be parked on the street.  The Association contends the 8 cars is unsafe and that 12 residents would create an imposition on community resources.  Plaintiff claims the need for 12 residents to reach “critical mass” for its phasing recovery system, so more established residents can mentor newer ones.

Law

Under the FHA it is unlawful to discriminate in the sale or rental of a dwelling based on handicap.  “A person is handicapped under the FHA if he or she: (1) has a physical or mental disorder that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of having such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).  Alcoholism and drug addiction are typically considered impairments under the definition of disability set forth in the FHA.”  However, those who are currently using or addicted to controlled substances are excluded from these protections. 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).  The plaintiff must prove the request necessary – but for the accommodation, “they likely will be denied an equal opportunity to enjoy the housing of their choice.”

Question/Issue for the Court to Answer
  1. Are the residents of the Plaintiff disabled under the law and entitled to the FHA protections?
  2. Are the accommodation requests reasonable?
Court
  1. The residents of Plaintiff meet the definitions and are entitled to the protections of the FHA; and
  2. “A group home, even a commercialized one, may be a necessary accommodation.” Plus, Plaintiff has shown that it is not viable with fewer residents, the Association has not shown that the accommodation requests impose an undue hardship or fundamental alteration in either the purposes of the Association or the parking.

Therefore, Plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief is granted “to the extent that [the Association] is enjoined from further refusing to make a reasonable accommodation that is necessary to afford Plaintiffs an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

LESSONS:
  1. If someone is seeking a reasonable accommodation, and they seem like they could meet the broad definition of handicap, contact your lawyer, as lawsuits are way too expensive; and
  2. Don’t say no to a reasonable accommodation request until you have an opinion from a lawyer that your “no” will not violate the FHA. If a lawyer won’t write such an opinion, then that should tell you that you may want to reconsider your denial.

Harmony Haus Westlake, LLC v. Parkstone Property, ___ F. Supp.3d -___ (2020)

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