August 2017 Coach's Quiz
We’ve given you five rules on how to comply with fair housing law when dealing with environmental concerns at your community. Now let’s look at how the rules might apply in the real world. Take the Coach’s Quiz to see what you have learned.
INSTRUCTIONS: Each of the following questions has only one correct answer. On a separate piece of paper, write down the number of each question, followed by the answer you think is correct—for example, (1) b, (2) a, and so on.
And this month, there’s an extra credit assignment: Judge for Yourself, a description of an actual court case. Test yourself on whether you think the community should be held liable, and then check the summary of the court’s ruling to see how much you have learned.
The correct answers (with explanations) follow the quiz. Good luck!
If you are motivated by safety and liability due to exposure to lead-based paint, it’s okay to tell families with young children only about vacancies in units where you know that any lead paint hazards have already been addressed. True or false?
One of your residents calls your office to complain every time your landscaping crew works near her building. She insists that chemicals used in conventional pesticides and herbicides are dangerous and that you should use only organic products. In her most recent call, she says she has developed a special allergy to these products and threatens to file a discrimination complaint unless you stop using them immediately. You should:
a. Ignore her; she’s probably just exaggerating the situation to get you to “go green.”
b. Stop using the products immediately; fair housing law requires you to grant her request as a reasonable accommodation for her disability.
c. Follow up in accordance with your standard procedures for handling reasonable accommodation requests.
Extra Credit: Judge for Yourself
A family with a young child lived in housing owned by a Florida city and operated by an administrator. According to the wife, she and her son had a “heightened sensitivity to mycotoxin-producing mold,” which caused a variety of physical symptoms. Allegedly, she and the son had moved from their previous apartment because of mold, and her husband joined them soon after.
After moving into their unit, the wife said that she and her son experienced symptoms of exposure to toxic mold and obtained medical care. After she discovered mold-like matter in the unit, they said that testing revealed high concentrations of toxic molds in the unit. Allegedly, they sent the test results to the administrator, who promised to move them to another unit, but when nothing happened, the wife and son moved in with friends.
The couple claimed that the administrator initially denied responsibility and threatened to evict them, but eventually arranged for an inspection by a mold specialist, who noted dead or dried green mold in the unit. Soon after, the administrator notified her of its remedial action, including installation of a new air conditioning unit and air filters, but the couple threatened to withhold rent if the mold wasn’t removed.
Fearing that the remediation plan would make matters worse, the couple proposed an alternative remediation plan, but the administrator allegedly refused their request. The couple said that they hired a mold assessor who detected harmful molds that produce mycotoxins, which he attributed to an HVAC system deficiency, and offered several recommendations to fix the problem. The family claimed that, in response, the administrator threatened to evict them.
The family sued the city and others for violating federal and state fair housing law. The city asked the court to dismiss the case.
What did the court decide?
COACH’S ANSWERS & EXPLANATIONS
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rule #1 applies here:
Rule #1: Don’t Exclude Families with Children to Avoid Lead-Based Paint Exposure
Even if motivated by concerns for children’s welfare, it’s unlawful to deny housing to families with children under 18. The law requires you to tell them about all vacancies that meet their needs—even units where lead-based paint hazards are not controlled. If the family chooses one of those units, then you must notify them of the risks of lead-based paint, but you may not refuse to let them live there because the family has children.
Correct answer: c
Reason: Rules #2, #3, and #4 apply here:
Rule #2: Don’t Write Off Environmental Concerns
Rule #3: Evaluate Requests Related to Chemical Sensitivities
Rule #4: Consider Disability-Related Requests for Green Alternatives to Conventional Products
By claiming to have a disability-related need for a change to your standard procedures in maintaining the property, the resident has made a request for a reasonable accommodation. Follow up by applying your standard reasonable accommodation procedures to determine whether she has a disability—and a disability-related need for the requested accommodation.
Wrong answers explained:
a. Whatever your personal opinions about whether she really has a disability, you could face a discrimination claim unless you take her complaint seriously.
b. Fair housing law doesn’t require you to grant accommodation requests unless they’re made by or on behalf of an individual with a disability. To evaluate her request, you should follow your standard procedures to request documentation since neither her disability nor her disability-related need for the requested accommodation are obvious or apparent.
Answer: Judge for Yourself
In January 2017, the court refused the city’s request to dismiss the family’s fair housing claims for refusal to make reasonable accommodations to remedy the alleged mold problems in the unit.
To pursue a failure-to-accommodate claim, the family had to allege that: (1) the wife and son were disabled within the meaning of the FHA; (2) they requested a reasonable accommodation; (3) the requested accommodation was necessary to afford them an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling; and (4) the community refused to make the accommodation.
At this stage of the proceedings, the family’s allegations met that standard. The residents alleged that the wife and son had a disability—that is, their “mental or physical impairment substantially limits one or more of their life activities, to wit: mold sensitivity that when exposed to toxic mold manifest severe reactions that negatively impact their ability to concentrate, recall events, work, attend class and engage in other important life activities.”
Second, they alleged that the wife met with the city manager to discuss the presence of mold in the unit and its impact, and the administrator failed to address the mold and create an accommodation.
Finally, they alleged that they proposed a four-point remediation plan and informed the administrator and the city that they intended to withhold rent if the mold was not remediated, but the city took no action [Floyd v. City of Sanibel, January 2017].
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|How to Abide by Fair Housing Law When Dealing with Environmental Concerns|