Month: November 2013
With the holiday season approaching, you and your management staff may have talked about putting up themed displays or decorations, or hosting a community-wide holiday event to celebrate. But tread lightly when it comes to what types of displays or parties you should install or host—it could land you in trouble if members perceive that you’ve discriminated against any based on their religion.
It’s inevitable that over the years, you’ll have had some issues with association members who have made modifications to their homes without obtaining the necessary approval from the association. And as a result, you may also have been forced to handle concerns from suspicious members making calls to the management office to ask if particular neighbors have been granted approval by the architectural review committee for whatever project the neighbor happens to be working on. To resolve this, put association members on notice of approved projects in the community.
As Christmas approaches, many of your members will be setting up Christmas trees in their units. While a beautifully decorated tree can add to the holiday spirit and help create a fragrant indoor atmosphere, Christmas trees can also pose a serious fire hazard to members' condominiums as well as to your building. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Christmas trees account for an average of 200 fires annually, resulting in six deaths, 25 injuries, and more than $6 million in property damage.
The winter holiday season gives associations the opportunity to make their communities look festive and create a sense of camaraderie among members. Getting into the holiday spirit can lead to legal liability, though, if decorations or activities violate the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Pay attention to these aspects of holiday decorating when planning displays and celebrations.
Facts: A former homeowner in a planned community sued the association, claiming that it had violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) concerning a walkway built to the house she previously owned and access to the swimming pool and related shower and bathroom facilities by persons in wheelchairs. The owner said that she has a bone disease and an anxiety disorder, but didn’t specify exactly what they are. For the anxiety disorder, she claimed to need a service dog, whose presence reduced her anxiety.
Facts: After a member moved into the unit he purchased in a condo building, he discovered defects including inadequate fire protection, violations of the state energy code, shoddy insulation work, and poor ventilation, among other problems. He requested that the association cure—that is, fix—the defects. When it didn’t, the member sued the association for breach of contract and fraud. The association asked the court to dismiss the member’s claims.
Facts: A renter who used a wheelchair sued a condo association, alleging that the unavailability of handicap-accessible parking in the building violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The 40-story building has 342 parking spaces, seven of which are handicap accessible. But the association sold the accessible spaces to members without disabilities.
Facts: In order to use his new motorized wheelchair, a disabled homeowner in a planned community modified his car to transport the wheelchair. Because of the modification, the car no longer fit in the owner’s garage. He asked the architectural review board to approve plans for a larger detached garage that he wanted to build on his property. The board denied the request. The owner resubmitted the request, making it clear that he was asking for a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
Facts: A condominium board sued a member for allegedly barring the association manager from accessing her unit to make repairs, among other claims. At the trial, the association’s only witness was its manager. He testified that the member had refused to let him into the unit to fix problems that had been discovered by the association. The member asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the association presented no proof that she had denied him access. The court agreed that the association lacked proof.
Community Associations Institute (CAI) is expressing support for proposed federal rules that accomplish two important CAI goals: (1) helping more homebuyers obtain safe mortgage financing; and (2) stimulating a housing market that has struggled since home prices began falling in late 2006. Both will provide more stability to community associations across the country.