Discrimination in your HOA

Think your HOA doesn’t discriminate?  You may want to run home and  double check your governing documents to be certain.  An Orlando homeowners’ association, has a serious situation on it’s hands and could be facing legal action soon,  if they don’t attempt to amend the language in their CC&Rs.  In rare instances, discriminating language is blatently obvious as in the case of this Florida HOA.  Its covenants purportedly only allow homes to be leased to married couples.  The exact language of the CC&R’s state that owners can only lease to  ”one adult natural person together with that person’s spouse.”  Clearly this states that unmarried people need not apply.

Discrimination in HOAs

More often than not, subtle clauses can go undetected until the homeowners’ association attempts to enforce a restriction that crosses the line.  Many of these clauses are found in older governing documents written long before homeowners’ associations gained popularity in Washington.  One would hope that the associations established nearly six decades ago in this state would have retained an attorney to review and propose amendments to their legal documents targeting unreasonable language.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.

In Washington, if just one homeowner notifies the board (in writing) of a discriminating clause  which  forbids or restricts use and/or occupancy to individuals of a specified race, creed, color, sex, families with children; and individuals with disability, the board must amend the documents within a reasonably short period of time.  If documents contain discriminating language, the law waives any requirements that might typically be required in the association’s bylaws to amend the documents, such as a majority vote of the membership.  Where the language clearly discriminates, it can be changed by a majority vote of the board.

Issues around possible discrimination can be difficult to navigate.  What if your association has a “no pets” clause, but a person with disabilities leases or purchases a home in your association and moves in with their service dog?  What is the board to do?  According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) you must accommodate the disabled person’s need.  As with most challenging HOA issues, the board should use common sense and a reasonable approach when determining if a rule or a restriction is actually discriminatory.  When in doubt seek legal advice from an attorney.

Clearly it is not reasonable for an HOA to make housing decisions based on whether or not you are married or living with your significant other.   This clause in the CC&R’s is unenforceable.  Discrimination is hurtful and wrong, don’t allow your association to accomodate it.

Posted on December 19, 2008