When HOAs Fail to Accommodate Disability Needs

Homeowner associations have an affirmative duty to make accommodations in their policies and practices that enable physically and mentally disabled residents to fully enjoy their property. In order to avoid legal trouble, boards must properly address requests for special treatment. Some boards or managers may seek legal counsel to evaluate the request, determine if it is properly documented and supported, and to get advice concerning the protection of the association and its members.

Learn more about accommodating disabilities and the law.

Complaint

An aggrieved individual or the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) may file a complaint within one year after an alleged discriminatory housing practice has occurred.

  • The complaint must be answered within ten days of service and must be signed under penalty of perjury.
  • The complaint may be prosecuted by HUD or referred to a state or local public agency certified by HUD.
  • An attempt to conciliate the complaint is generally required, which can lead to an agreement between the respondent and the complainant. The conciliation agreement can include damages caused by humiliation or embarrassment, attorney’s fees, and other equitable and injunctive relief.

Charge

The Secretary of HUD may also issue a "charge" on behalf of an aggrieved person. A charge may involve formal administrative legal proceedings or criminal penalties.

  • If a charge is issued, the complainant or respondent may elect to have the claims decided in a civil action, in lieu of an administrative proceeding, in which case the matter is litigated in the federal court.
  • FHAA violation may involve injunctions or restraining orders, payment of monetary damages, and civil penalties in an amount not exceeding $50,000 for a first violation, and not exceeding $100,000 for any subsequent violation.
  • In a civil action brought by an aggrieved person for a discriminatory housing practice, the court may award the plaintiff punitive damages, notwithstanding the absence of actual loss to the plaintiff.

To learn more about disability rights, visit the Department of Housing and Development.


Adapted from the article “Making Accommodations”(2010) by Jeffrey A. Barnett, Esq.
Educational Topic: