Is Your Adult Supervision Rule Discriminatory?
Q: I want to ensure that everyone in the community I manage is safe from accidents. I’m thinking about recommending that the association create and enforce a rule that requires an adult to be present when children are playing in specific areas in the community, such as our playground. Is this a wise plan?
A: According to a ruling in a recent California case that addressed adult supervision rules in planned communities, no. While you think that you’re keeping children safe by essentially requiring an individual to more or less “babysit,” your rule could be discriminatory. The association in the California case faced a discrimination lawsuit brought by two homeowners.
There, a married couple who owned a home in a planned community sued the homeowners association and its property management company for housing discrimination, negligence, and unfair business practices. They alleged that the overly broad community rules requiring adult supervision effectively prohibited their children from playing outside in the common areas, apart from a small playground onsite at the complex. A California trial court ruled in favor of the members.
The court noted that in regards to an adult supervision rule used for common areas in a planned community or condominium building, if the restriction is overly broad, then it is not valid. Here, the members presented facts that demonstrate discrimination under a theory of disparate treatment: The playground has a sign that states "children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult at all times." They also received notices that state the community streets are "not intended to be used as a playground for children." The trial court ruled that the restriction was too broad and therefore not enforceable [Caldera v. Aliso Villas Condo. Assn., October 2016].
To avoid such a lawsuit, ask your attorney to review the safety-oriented rule you have in mind to make sure it’s not too narrow.