By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
This is big news, even though you probably haven’t heard much about it. But it’s creating a buzz among community association attorneys.
Proposed HUD Rule Would Make Associations Guardians of Civil Rights (emphasis added)
…in October 2015 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development promulgated proposed rules and regulations that have the potential to significantly expand associations’ involvement in some matters involving disputes among members. The proposed changes would serve to standardize how claims of harassment are to be treated under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, and they address both quid pro quo (this for that) and hostile environment harassment in housing.
Under this new rule, community association directors and property management can be found to be directly liable for discriminatory conduct that occurs solely between community residents if it is found that the association, its board members or property management “fail to fulfill a duty to take prompt action to correct and end the discriminatory conduct which they either knew or should have known existed.”
Alternate link: http://www.floridahoalawyerblog.com/2016/05/article-michael-chapnick-todays-dbr-proposed-hud-rule-make-associations-guardians-civil-rights.html
If – or more likely when – this proposed HUD rule is made official, board members and managers of Association Governed Housing will no longer be able to turn a blind eye to harassment of a resident by any other resident in the community.
I hear from plenty of homeowners and residents who have had to deal with all kinds of nuisances, disturbances, and threatening behavior. Quite often the target of such behavior is a member of one or more protected classes:
- Single parents, usually women, and their children
- Senior citizens
- Individuals with visible or invisible disabilities
- Racial, ethnic, religious, or gender orientation minorities within the community
Some real-life examples of horror stories:
- Verbal threats
- Physical assault
- Bullying of children
- Sexual harassment
- Vandalism, including racial slurs, swastikas, vulgar language, etc.
- Blasting TV or loud music at all hours of the day and night
- Allowing dogs to bark incessantly, or allowing a vicious dog to run loose and intimidate neighbors
- Repeatedly blocking access to a designated parking space
Some less obvious, nevertheless abusive behavior, often used to discriminate:
- Repeated covenant violation notices, often with punitive fines, for minor or trumped-up “offenses”
- Aggressive and unfair collection tactics
- Unwarranted threats of foreclosure
- Selective enforcement of rules and restrictions
- Refusal to grant reasonable requests for modification or accommodation (wheelchair ramps, installation of security cameras
Although the new rule would likely result in additional lawsuits of residents against their associations, I believe it would also tilt the scales more in the direction of housing consumers.
Now we have to wonder: after a few associations get slapped for their actions – or rather, their failure to take action – would we see an attitude adjustment from homeowners, condo, and cooperative association boards and managers? Or would we see even fewer homeowners willing to take on the role of volunteer protector of Civil Rights?
And if we see fewer people willing to serve on HOA Boards, will we see more homeowners seeking escapes from or alternatives to their mandatory associations?
Or will the industry just use this “crisis” as another excuse to promote their professional management and legal services?
That’s up to We the People.