By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
As part of a legal settlement with four disabled residents who filed a HUD complaint, a PA HOA installs handicapped parking spaces as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act.
The Village of Valleybrook Homeowners Association agreed to a $31,000 settlement, including handicapped parking accommodations, for four disabled residents of the Chester Heights condominium community.
According to a press release by the Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania (HECP), four residents of Valleybrook made disability-based requests for handicapped parking spaces in 2017 and 2018.
The HOA told the residents that they would have to pay for the cost of reserved spaces, and, when the residents did not agree to pay for the accommodations, the HOA refused to install handicapped parking spaces and signs.
HECP then worked with the residents to educate the HOA about its legal obligations to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. However, the HOA still refused to provide reserved parking spaces as requested.
With assistance from HECP, the four affected residents filed a formal complaint with HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development). Village of Valleybrook HOA then agreed to provide the parking accommodations and make direct payments to the residents.
Valleybrook group to pay $31k in disabled complaint
By the Times Staff October 27, 2018
The Village of Valleybrook Homeowners Association will pay more than $31,000 to settle claims that it violated disability provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act by failing to install handicapped parking spaces for four residents, according to a release from the Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania.
“A housing provider’s refusal to allow reasonable accommodations can have a significant effect on the lives of people with disabilities,” said HECP Executive Director Rachel Wentworth in the release. “The denial of an individual’s rights to a reserved handicapped parking space can result in increased day-to-day physical pain and worsening of the symptoms of their disabilities as they are forced to walk longer distances. A reserved parking space is a relatively simple accommodation to provide and courts have established that it is the housing provider’s responsibility to bear the cost of installing a reserved parking space as a reasonable accommodation.”
The association is self-managed by a seven-member volunteer board of directors.
The association last updated its parking policy in 2009, requiring residents to pay costs associated with a handicapped parking space.
However, the condo association’s 2009 policy violates the Federal Fair Housing Act, as noted below:
What is a “reasonable accommodation” for purposes of the Act?
A “reasonable accommodation” is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces. Since rules, policies, practices, and services may have a different effect on persons with disabilities than on other persons, treating persons with disabilities exactly the same as others will sometimes deny them an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. The Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
To show that a requested accommodation may be necessary, there must be an identifiable relationship, or nexus, between the requested accommodation and the individual’s disability.
Example 1: A housing provider has a policy of providing unassigned parking spaces to residents. A resident with a mobility impairment, who is substantially limited in her ability to walk, requests an assigned accessible parking space close to the entrance to her unit as a reasonable accommodation. There are available parking spaces near the entrance to her unit that are accessible, but those spaces are available to all residents on a first come, first served basis. The provider must make an exception to its policy of not providing assigned parking spaces to accommodate this resident.
What happens if providing a requested accommodation involves some costs on the part of the housing provider?
Courts have ruled that the Act may require a housing provider to grant a reasonable accommodation that involves costs, so long as the reasonable accommodation does not pose an undue financial and administrative burden and the requested accommodation does not constitute a fundamental alteration of the provider’s operations. The financial resources of the provider, the cost of the reasonable accommodation, the benefits to the requester of the requested accommodation, and the availability of other, less expensive alternative accommodations that would effectively meet the applicant or resident’s disability-related needs must be considered in determining whether a requested accommodation poses an undue financial and administrative burden.
For additional details regarding Fair Housing rights for residents, see HUD’s publication, Fair Housing – Equal Opportunity for All.