Court Orders Gated Community to Allow Sober Living Group Home

Community association residents can be as guilty of “not in my backyard” as anyone else when given the chance. And they may be in for an unpleasant surprise if they count on their declaration and restrictions to protect them from such situations.

A community association in Austin, Tex., learned this the hard way. A federal district court held that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) required the community to waive its single-family restriction to allow a 12-person for-profit group sober living facility.

“People are going to be waving this case around saying that now they can have sober facilities in these upper-end neighborhoods,” predicts Marc Markel, a shareholder in the Texas-based law firm Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC.

Harmony Haus markets its transitional sober living residences to high-end professionals. It uses a phasing system for its residents, meaning that those further along in their recovery supervise and hold accountable newer residents.

The company signed a five-year lease with the owners of a house in the Parkstone subdivision. It subsequently requested an exemption from any applicable HOA covenant, rule, or regulation that would impede its operation.

The request was couched in the language of the FHA — in other words, it said the exemption was necessary so its residents could be provided an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. Specifically, Harmony Haus asked the community association to allow 12 unrelated residents to live in the home. The HOA, not surprisingly, wasn’t on board.

To learn why the court allowed the facility, as well as how the association may have made things even worse after the court’s ruling, read our new article, HOA Must Allow Sober Living Home as Reasonable Accommodation.

Best regards,
Matt Humphrey

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