Attorney says case will help many others fighting for disability, civil rights in HOAs
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
On Mother’s Day, today’s blog pays tribute to Renee Kuhn, a mother who, with support from her husband, Gary, is a fierce advocate for her daughter, Khrizma, and countless other people with disabilities who choose to live in Association-Governed Housing.
You may remember previous blogs about the Kuhn family, who has been engaged in a legal dispute with their former Keizer area HOAs (McNary Estates and the Fountains), over their refusal to accommodate Khrizma’s disability, despite extensive medical documentation provided by physicians.
The Kuhns had requested that their HOA allow them to park a specially-equipped RV in their driveway, but the HOA refused to grant that request. McNary HOA’s legal position at the time was that parking an RV in the driveway – normally prohibited by the CC&Rs – was not necessary to enable Khrizma an equal opportunity to enjoy her home.
The Kuhns and their legal counsel disagreed, and pursued fair housing claims beginning in January 2016.
Back in January of this year, federal Judge Ann Aiken ruled in favor of the Kuhns, confirming that McNary HOA had indeed engaged in discrimination against Khrizma, a 34-year old with severe autism and Down’s Syndrome, and several other related health complications.
(If you missed the previous blogs, and are interested in more details regarding the history of this case, see here, here, and here.)
I am pleased to announce that, according to several media reports, the Kuhns have agreed to a $300,000 settlement with McNary Estates HOA. The Kuhns’ Civil Rights attorney, Dennis Steiman reports that the amount of the settlement is significant, in that it is among the highest for fair housing cases in the U.S.
However, the Kuhns want the public to recognize that, despite the size of the settlement, they are certainly not making a fortune off the backs of McNary HOA. According to information posted on Renee Kuhn’s Facebook page, here is how the proceeds of the settlement will be allocated:
$300,000 Total proceeds
-120,000 Attorney’s 40% (worth every penny!!)
$180,000 Remaining balance
– 54,000. State and Federal Taxes (Federal/State checks will be written the day following the deposit)
$126,000. Remaining balance
We are dividing this remaining balance into 1/3s; Khrizma, Gary and Renee:
$42,000 – Khrizma’s 1/3 – will be deposited into her new Trust Account to pay for trips to Disneyland, Vegas to see her favorite oldie’s group, Legal Fees, Durable Medical Equipment, etc.
$84,000 – Gary and Renee’s 1/3s combined – will pay off Khrizma’s medically-equipped motorhome which cost $90,000.
0 Balance remaining
Steinman also points out that the family is being compensated for other economic losses, including $2,400 for temporary lodging at an extended stay hotel during the course of their move, as well as the $76,000 in additional expense the Kuhns incurred when they were forced to move in 2015, at a time when home prices were much higher than when they originally purchased their McNary home about a decade earlier.
At the time of the move, the family had been forced to sell one of their vehicles in order to finance the purchase of a more expensive home that would accommodate their daughter’s needs, including driveway parking space for their motor home.
Because McNary HOA avoided a jury trial, and has not admitted it was at fault in the terms of the settlement, its insurer will pay the $300,000 settlement.
As part of the settlement, according to Steinman, it was of utmost importance to the Kuhns that residential association-governed communities (HOAs, condominium and cooperative associations) end discriminative practices by refusing to make reasonable accommodations so that their residents can fully enjoy their homes and maintain a high quality of life.
Renee Kuhn also writes on her Facebook page:
Making the amount of our settlement public was extremely important to us because it would serve as a huge deterrent to all HOAs nationwide should they consider repeating McNary’s actions against a disabled individual by failing to comply with their federal right to fair housing. Our lawsuit was never intended as a way to make money off the HOA. We initiated a lawsuit against the HOA to make sure that it did not violate Fair Housing law a “3rd” time. You may remember that McNary HOA was held liable for violating federal fair housing law against another individual with Down Syndrome in 2011. Because of this, looking the other way, and simply “moving on” without legal action, was not an option for our family.
Making the Judge’s ruling and settlement of our lawsuit public also leaves a much needed “legal trail” in place to support other families around the country who may also need to make a reasonable accommodation request of their HOA due to a disabling condition of a family member who lives in their home. In addition, we strongly wanted to leave some protection in place for the numerous, elderly, McNary neighbors we left behind, who might need to make a reasonable accommodation themselves should they develop a disabling condition such as cancer, Alzheimers, brain damage, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, etc., so that they would have the option of living in their home for as long as possible with any medically needed supports in place. It is vital that everyone realizes that a person does not have to look like Khrizma, or have her bowel condition, in order to qualify for a reasonable accommodation under fair housing law! Yes, the federal ruling that Judge Aiken handed down helps families bring their RVs home should someone living in their HOA home have a disabling condition with a “nexus” to “enjoying and using” their dwelling. But Judge Aiken’s ruling also helps prevent fair housing discrimination at the hands of HOAs around the country for reasonable accommodations having nothing to do with the parking of an RV on an HOA driveway against a CC&R. In other words, Judge Aiken’s ruling will help protect ALL individuals who experience a medically, disabling condition, who choose to live in HOA and have the need for a reasonable accommodation.
The Kuhns have been actively advocating for parents and caregivers of individuals with autism and other disabling conditions that make it difficult for the family to interact beyond the confines of their home, due to various factors that make traveling by automobiles or public transportation impractical.
Many families raising a severely autistic child hardly ever leave their home because of the lack of vital supports and a controlled and familiar environment for their child. Being isolated to their home is harmful for the autistic child, but also restrictive and damaging for siblings, parent caregivers and the entire family unit. With the support of a motorhome, families can take all day outings into nature where restrooms might not even be available. Food, medications, change of clothing, watching movies, etc., allows a family to have somewhat of a normal experience – even away from home.
The Kuhns were able to negotiate that McNary’s CC&Rs would be amended to include fair housing language that would inform its members how to request an accommodation for disability, in an effort to help prevent the HOA from discriminating against other members in the future. The Kuhns hope this is the first step toward enacting a state law that would require similar language in all CC&Rs of all HOAs in Oregon.
We were successful in getting fair housing language included with McNary’s CC&R’s as part of our settlement agreement!! THIS IS HUGE, and much more important to us than any financial compensation we will receive from this lawsuit!
Bravo to Renee and Gary Kuhn, who continue to create an easier path for individuals and caregivers to protect the rights of people with disabilities in Oregon and the U.S.
Homeowners association settles RV dispute for $300k
Aimee Green | The Oregonian/OregonLive By Aimee Green | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 11, 2017 at 4:50 PM, updated May 12, 2017 at 5:57 AM
The parents of a disabled woman who say they were forced to move from their Marion County neighborhood after the homeowners association barred them from parking an RV in their driveway have settled their lawsuit for $300,000.
The parents of Khrizma Kuhn had argued that their disabled 34-year-old daughter needed the RV to travel to medical appointments and other places. She suffered from a condition that caused frequent bouts of diarrhea and had to be near a toilet and a shower, they said.
Gary and Renee Kuhn bought their Keizer home in 2005 and got the RV in 2015 after their daughter’s incontinence worsened. She has Down syndrome, autism and an IQ of 36.
But the McNary Estates homeowners association wouldn’t budge, saying the 25-foot RV was too big to park at their home and violated the neighborhood’s covenants.
Keizer HOA’s dispute with family settled for $300k
Whitney M. Woodworth , Statesman Journal
Published 4:59 p.m. PT May 12, 2017 | Updated 5:02 p.m. PT May 12, 2017
A family suing a Keizer homeowners association for not allowing them to park a motor home meant for their disabled daughter in their driveway has agreed to accept a $300,000 to settlement.
Gary, Renee, and Khrizma Kuhn agreed to dismiss their claims again the McNary Estates Homeowners Association in exchange for the payment and other stipulations.
“They are thrilled,” said Dennis Steinman, the Kuhns’ attorney.
He said the family feels like they’ve succeeded in their primary goal — to help make sure this type of fair housing violation won’t happen to another family in the future.
Family reaches settlement with Keizer HOA over RV dispute
Posted: May 12, 2017 9:00 PM EDT
Updated: May 12, 2017 10:36 PM EDT
Reporter Kelsey Watts
WOODBURN, OR (KPTV) –
A $300,000 settlement has been reached in a legal battle between a local family and their former homeowners’ association that centered on an RV used for their disabled daughter.
The Kuhn family said they were forced to move out of their Keizer home in January of 2016 because their HOA didn’t approve of the RV they parked outside.
Renee Kuhn told FOX 12 in 2016 that they needed the RV for medical appointments for their daughter who has Down syndrome and autism because she needs access to a bathroom wherever she goes.
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