COACH's Pop Quiz!
Q: You must consider a resident’s request to allow a member of her household who has a mobility impairment to park in accessible space reserved for visitors, instead of the space assigned to that unit. True or false?
A: True. In May 2015, a court refused to dismiss a fair housing case filed by the Justice Department, accusing a New Hampshire condo community of denying a unit owner’s request to allow a household member, who had physical disabilities, to use a parking space that would have given him easier access to his unit than the parking area assigned to that unit.
According to the complaint, the unit owner lived with a man who wore a leg brace due to partial paralysis in his left leg and had other impairments, so that he couldn’t walk more than 30 feet without being at risk of falling and had difficulty going up and down stairs. Allegedly, the parking area assigned to the unit was in the back and required use of a nine-step stairway. But there was a visitors’ parking area in front of the unit, which was on the same level and was accessible without having to use a stairway.
The unit owner said she submitted two accommodation requests, explaining that the man needed to use the visitor parking area because it was too painful for him to use the back stairway. Allegedly, the community denied both requests without offering any alternatives to using their unit’s designated parking area. Because of the denial, his health allegedly declined and the couple moved out.
The community unsuccessfully argued that there was no discrimination involved in the sale of the unit—and that fair housing law didn’t apply to anything that happened afterward. The court disagreed, ruling that fair housing law banned disability discrimination, including refusal to make reasonable accommodations, and that the law was broad enough to protect any person—not just renters or buyers—and barred a wide range of discriminatory practices [U.S. v. Avatar Properties, Inc., May 2015].
For more on how to comply with fair housing law when handling parking accommodation requests, see the Coach’s February 2016 lesson available to subscribers here.