By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
In October 2016, HUD issued charges of discrimination in connection with a complaint filed in June 2014 against Peachtree Court Homeowners Association, the HOA board of directors, and the Architectural Advisory Committee (AAC). Peachtree Court HOA is a subdivision of 196 single family homes in Cumming, Georgia.
Summary of complaint
In August 2013, the parents of two children filed a request with Peachtree Court AAC to install a play structure in their back yard. According to court documents (see below), the AAC provided a form to make such requests for improvement, and “play structure” was one of the items listed on the request form.
About a week later, the Board of directors met and voted to prohibit play structures in the association. In September, the family received an official letter rejecting installation of a play structure, but providing no explanation for disapproval. However, the complainants report that a member of the AAC verbally admitted the Board’s policy change with regard to play structures, according to the complaint.
Because the parents were prohibited from installing a stand alone play structure, they instead attached a sliding board to their deck in the back yard.
In February 2014, the family received a violation notice and was ordered to remove the slide attached to their back deck within 12 days, or face $25 per day fines.
When the complainants inquired with the Board about their compliance notice, a Board member told them that the new rule prohibiting play structures had been enacted in June 2013, 2 months prior to the family’s request to install a play set for their children. However, HUD’s investigation found no record of the rule change in the June 2013 meeting minutes. The investigation did discover a rule change made in August 2013, about one week following the family’s request to add a play structure.
In March 2014, the complainants met with the HOA Board, and expressed their concerns of discrimination. In May 2014, the Board voted to rescind the prohibition on play structures in back yards. However, the family has already been subject to $2,300 in fines and has been banned from using the community pool.
HUD seeks administrative fines and compensatory damages for the family, including reversal of the fines.
Of course, this is not the first time a homeowners association has banned a play structure for children. Homebuyers and tenants moving into a single family home with a private yard may be surprised to learn that, in most HOAs, there are extensive restrictions upon the appearance and use of property. In some HOAs, those restrictions extend beyond the front yard of the home to the “private” back yard.
The truth is, not all HOAs are family friendly. And even those Association-Governed common interest communities open to families with children can have overly obsessive HOA boards or neighbors that complain about the clutter of toys or the noise of children playing.
What kind of world are we creating for our children and grandchildren, where playing outdoors is considered a nuisance?
And in the Peachtree Court HOA case, the timing of the board’s ban on play structures seems to be a case of selective enforcement. You can read HUD’s discrimination complaint below.
Here are several other examples of HOAs that have caused conflict over child’s play:
The case was later settled, but cost the family several thousand dollars in legal fees.
And this story of a little girl’s battle with cancer got national attention that prompted the HOA to have a change of heart:
HUD Complaint against Peachtree Court HOA, et. Al.