Despite 50-year anniversary of 1968 Fair Housing Act, discrimination plagues HOAs, retirement communities

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
This month, IAC shares four new reports of housing discrimination involving a variety of privately-governed communities.

FL Attorney General takes on condo association in Fair Housing discrimination lawsuit

It’s rare to see an Attorney General investigate complaints involving association-governed communities. But in this case, Pam Bondi ended up with the case after the Florida Commission on Human Relations determined that Stonebrier HOA discriminated against families with children, with regard to enforcement of its pool rules.

The rules required that anyone under the age of 18 must be supervised by an adult in order to use the community pool.

In 2010, in a similar fair housing case in California ,the court ruled in favor of residents of an apartment community. Pool rules that excluded children and teens under the age of 18 were found to violate Fair Housing Acts.

In that case, attorneys for Plaintiffs argued that some children under the age of 18 might be very proficient swimmers, while many adults do not know how to swim. Therefore, a rule  based upon the age of the swimmer cannot be said to ensure the safety of members of the housing community. However, the rule did significantly limit the rights of children and their parents to fully enjoy the community pool.

The rule is sometimes enacted in associations with a high number of older adults, who generally prefer quiet time at the pool.

Bondi will investigate, among other things, complaints that some homeowners in Stonebrier HOA called local police to demand that the Plaintiff’s unsupervised teen children be denied access to the pool.

Florida’s AG will find herself smack dab in the middle of a heated controversy over whether owners of “private” communities should have the right pick and choose who can swim in their pool, or at least when they can do so.

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Bondi’s office joins mom in fight against kid ‘restrictive’ swimming pool rules

Bre Bradham
Times Staff Writer

Published: August 14, 2018

Updated: August 15, 2018 at 05:44 PM

LUTZ — The feud started three years ago at a neighborhood pool in a community north of Tampa. Children wanted to swim but were denied access.

Minors had to be supervised, they were told.

But this summer, the office of Attorney General Pam Bondi plunged in to help, filing a discrimination lawsuit against the Stonebrier Homeowner’s Association and alleging “overly-restrictive pool rules” for families with children.

The office that regularly handles large scale fraud busts and opioid crackdowns filed the complaint on behalf of Ivy Sevigny, 44, who moved into a $322,800 home in Stonebrier with her fiance in February 2014.

Between the two, they had five kids, including a couple of teenagers, and a baby on the way.

Sevigny qualified to be represented by Bondi’s office because she first turned to the Florida Commission on Human Relations, which found reasonable cause to believe a discriminatory housing practice occurred.

Sevigny hired an attorney in June 2016, but the pool rules were not changed. She filed charges of discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and U.S. Department of Housing.

The commission’s finding in Sevigny’s favor allowed her to file a lawsuit and be represented by either a private attorney or Bondi’s office. Sevigny chose Bondi’s office.

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Should couples have to be married to share a condo?

Apparently, some board members of Waterside Village in Sunrise (FL), think they should have the ultimate right to decide who can live in their community.

But, according to News 7 legal expert, Howard Finkelstein, while a Florida condo association has the right to enforce rental restrictions, it cannot legally deny an owner the right to live in her condo with her boyfriend.

It seems unbelievable that, in the 21st century, some of your neighbors might discriminate against unmarried couples. After News 7 began looking into the story, the association backed down on their denial of Yasmine Navas’ application for Samuel Rodriguez, stating that their former denial of housing was based on their belief that Navas was asking for permission to have a paying tenant share her condo unit with her.

Because Navas and Rodriguez are a couple, there’s no tenant or lease agreement. But what if there were?

Suppose a single condo or homeowner wanted to take on a paying roommate to help cover living costs, or to make extra payments on the mortgage? Suppose the homeowner’s friend or relative needed an affordable place to live?

Why should any association-governed community have the right to limit an owner’s right to have roommates?

So far, IAC is unaware of any Fair Housing claim alleging disparate discrimination based upon an association-governed community’s prohibition against homeowners leasing to non family members. But, think about it. Home sharing of this type could go a long, long way toward alleviating the affordable housing shortage — a crisis that disproportionately affects protected classes such as the elderly and racial minorities.


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Boyfriend Can’t Move in with Girlfriend

Patrick Fraser | Ambar Rodriguez
(WSVN) – A South Florida couple is facing hurdles after their landlord refused to let them live together.

Samuel Rodriguez and Yasmine Navas lived together without an issue in Tallahassee when Rodriguez was attending Florida State University.

The couple, who have been dating for five years, ran into problems when they decided to move back to South Florida.

Yasmine bought a condo at Waterside Village in Sunrise.

Yasmine Navas: “And now that we are finally ready and we want to start our journey here in South Florida.”

The first step was getting Samuel approved as her roommate.

Yasmine Navas: “We did a background check. We sent in everything to be done by their rules.”

A 38-page background check on Samuel came back clean as a whistle, but the board, which never met him, refused to let him move in.

Yasmine Navas: “They denied him because they think he is a tenant of ours, and I do not live here with them, so they think he is sub-leasing from us.”

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Expanding Fair Housing rights to same sex partners

Now, what if a couple is married, but a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) decides to deny residency to a same sex couple, on the basis of religious beliefs?

(NOTE: A CCRC is a private contractual community that offers independent living, in addition to ongoing services such as assisted living and nursing care, if and when residents need it. Residents may opt to own or rent a home in the community. )

As the New York Times article reports, Friendship Village Sunset Hills, a retirement community in St. Louis (MO), denied a housing application for Mary Walsh and Beverly Nance, a married couple since 2009, due to Friendship House’s “cohabitation policy.” The community’s official policy reportedly limits cohabitation to siblings, parents, children, or spouses.

Spouses included married people, right?

But, the faith-based nonprofit group’s contract defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Although a CCRC is somewhat different from a homeowners association, both are private communities governed by contract. The question is, should any private housing contract be able to override Constitutional constraints and Fair Housing Acts under federal and state law?

Walsh and Nance don’t think so. They have filed a federal complaint against Friendship House for denying their admission to the community.


FL condo association, manager, and board sued for limiting the number of occupants per unit, and denying housing to families with children

A Palm Beach area Fair Housing Center filed a lawsuit against Fontana Properties Condo Associations, as well as its management agent (RPH Property Management) and board of directors.

Fontana Properties is a two-story structure consisting of six 2-bedroom condo units. The condo board amended its governing documents in 2010, to allow for no more than two residents per unit. HUD rules and local laws generally allow 2 residents per bedroom. For Fontana Properties, federal and state law would permit up to four residents per condo.

The Fair Housing Center argues that Fontana’s 2-person per unit rule is too restrictive, and that it results in housing discrimination against couples with children. The organization seeks to have the court declare Fontana’s restriction unconstitutional, because it violates the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

The Center also asks the Court to compel the defendants to “establish a ‘Victims’ Fund for prospective or former tenants who were and are victims of housing discrimination,’ in addition to punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, and other relief as this court deems just and equitable.”


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Fair Housing Center claims Palm Beach condo association, property management agency discriminated against families

By Karen Kidd | Jul 25, 2018
WEST PALM BEACH — A fair housing advocacy group is suing a Palm Beach condominium association and property management agency, claiming their policies about how many people can live in their units are discriminatory and violate the Fair Housing Act.

Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches, a nonprofit based in Lantana that claims to work to eliminate housing discrimination in Florida, filed its 16-page lawsuit July 13 in the U.S. District Court for Florida’s Southern District, West Palm Beach Division. Named defendants in the case are Fontana Properties Condominium Association, RPH Property Management Palm Beach and their directors.

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