Unfortunately for community association managers, there are some common fair housing problems that can arise from community rules. To avoid them, make sure you understand where you might go wrong. In general, community rules trigger fair housing problems in one of two ways—either the rules are enforced unfairly or the rules themselves are unfair.
With the increasing trend of workers telecommuting to jobs with companies and the proliferation of online shops whose sellers make or store their merchandise at home, associations have had to deal with the issues surrounding so-called “home businesses.” This is a tricky issue, which is controlled in many associations by the communities governing documents. But even if governing documents prohibit businesses or commercial use of homes or condos, be aware that there still are circumstances under which the association you manage can’t interfere.
Unfortunately, as community association managers know all too well, sometimes the contractors your association hires for such jobs as snow plowing, painting, or providing security don’t perform up to the standards you expect. If you don’t terminate the contract and you let the company continue to provide poor service to your community, members could get frustrated and the management office could be fielding an increased number of complaints. Even worse, the association could get hit with a lawsuit by a member or guest hurt because of bad service.
You and your staff should have a risk management strategy set up that covers all of the issues that could lead to liability for the association you manage. One of the big ticket items in terms of liability that your strategy should address is safety hazards in the community. That’s because safety hazards can result in, at best, minor accidents and, at worst, personal injury lawsuits. Here’s how to take reasonable care in a high-risk area.
Although in many parts of the country, planned community and condominium residents are battling snow and freezing temperatures, spring and summer—with warm weather and opportunities to get active—will be here soon enough. And some communities experience soaring heat year round, like those in association-prevalent states such as Florida. Many members invite guests into the community and host seasonal parties or activities in warm weather. You may even provide association-sponsored summer fun.
Facts: Lot owners in a planned residential community owned two adjacent lots. After several years, they combined both lots into a single lot. They followed state law to do so and properly recorded the change. When the association charged them for assessments for each of the two lots, which now were combined, the owners objected.
Like any other business or organization, community associations must file taxes with the government. And tax liability is a huge issue that associations need to be aware of. Improper reporting can land the association in hot water and cost thousands in fines, penalties, and late fees. This is especially tricky when it comes to your employees. April—the month in which federal and state taxes must be filed—is around the corner.
You may encounter a situation where a member of the community association you manage complains about a maintenance or other type of worker who’s left alone with the member. But what if it isn’t clear exactly what the employee may have done wrong? Sometimes, an interaction might be described in general terms as “creepy” or as having made the member feel “scared.” But if the member didn’t say anything specific that the worker did that was inappropriate and you’ve never had any complaints before, you should tread lightly.
A New Jersey condo association representing residents of a 55-and-older condominium development recently agreed to pay $9,000 to resolve allegations that it refused to sell a condo to a man with disabilities and his wife because the couple planned to have their adult disabled daughter live with them.
HUD announced the settlement last month, before the government shutdown shuttered the agency. The wife, now a widow, is pursuing claims against the association in New Jersey state court. The association denies that it discriminated against the family.