January 2017 Coach's Quiz
We’ve given you six rules on how to comply with fair housing laws when handling smoking 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!
Your community may regulate smoking in common areas, but you could face liability under fair housing law if you adopt policies to ban smoking inside individual units. True or false?
Fair housing law does not require communities to restrict smoking, but you could face a fair housing claim based on how you respond to a resident’s complaints about secondhand smoke. True or false?
Extra Credit: Judge for Yourself
A couple lived in a community where smoking was restricted. The lease provided that smoking was prohibited in the units and the breezeway. It also banned residents, guests, and others from smoking in common areas, and identified those areas to include corridors, breezeways, hallways, stairways, and the area immediately outside of apartments.
The husband said he moved into the community because of the community’s no-smoking policy. He said that exposure to secondhand smoke exacerbated his disabilities, including heart and lung impairments.
Soon after the couple moved in, they began to complain about their next-door neighbor smoking on his porch. They said they made several requests to a former on-site manager, asking him to tell the neighbor to stop smoking on his porch, but the requests were denied.
According to the couple, the community’s on-site manager interpreted the no-smoking policy to mean that smoking was prohibited in units and anywhere around the buildings, but that people could smoke on their porches and outdoor common areas away from the buildings. According to the community, once the husband began complaining of smoking violations, the policy was clarified to indicate that porches were included in the smoking ban.
After that neighbor moved out, the couple suspected their new neighbor also smoked because they saw an ashtray on his porch. Believing that the community moved another smoking tenant next door, they contacted legal representatives to help with their complaints about the no-smoking policy.
After various communications, the community established a designated smoking area next to the community center, a considerable distance away from the residential buildings. The husband protested, saying he couldn’t use the community center because of exposure to secondhand smoke. The community worked with the couple and their legal advisor to move the designated smoking area to a grassy picnic area away from the community center and away from their unit. Still dissatisfied, the couple didn’t want a designated smoking area anywhere on the community property.
The community reportedly sent two notices to residents, reminding them about the no-smoking policy, and informing them that it would be strictly enforced. The couple made several complaints to management over smoking violations; the community often followed up and issued warnings to residents smoking outside the designated smoking area.
The couple sued the community for failure to provide them with a reasonable accommodation by not enforcing the no-smoking policy. Both parties asked the court to rule in their favor.
What did the court decide?
COACH’S ANSWERS & EXPLANATIONS
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rules #1 and #2 apply here:
Rule #1: Check All Applicable Laws
Rule #2: Adopt and Disclose Smoking-Related Policies
Subject to state and local laws, it is not unlawful under fair housing law to adopt a policy banning smoking in both common areas and inside individual units.
Correct answer: a
Reason: Rules #3 and #4 apply here:
Rule #3: Take Complaints About Secondhand Smoke Seriously
Rule #4: Consider Options to Resolve Accommodation Requests
Even though federal fair housing law doesn’t require communities to restrict smoking, a community could trigger a fair housing claim for failure to address complaints about secondhand smoke from a resident with a disability. If the resident meets the criteria to qualify as an individual with a disability under the FHA, then the community must consider requests for reasonable accommodations to enable the resident to fully use and enjoy the dwelling.
Answer: Judge for Yourself
The court sided with the community, rejecting the couple’s claim that the community failed to accommodate the husband’s disability by not enforcing the no-smoking policy in the lease.
Although the lease’s no-smoking provisions prohibited smoking in apartments and breezeways, the couple interpreted the policy to ban smoking anywhere at the community. They argued that enforcement of the no-smoking policy on the entire property, including the designated smoking area, was necessary for the husband to enjoy an equal opportunity to use his unit and other common areas at the community.
Even if his request was reasonable, the court said that the husband wasn’t entitled to the accommodation of his choosing—a smoking ban on the entire community property. In an effort to accommodate the husband, the community established a designated smoking area so he could feel more comfortable about his neighbors who smoked by avoiding the single designated smoking area on the premises. The community even went so far as to relocate the designated no-smoking area to a location that was not used by the husband and far from both his unit and the community center. This was an alternative accommodation and change to the community’s policies, which would effectively meet the husband’s disability needs to limit his exposure to secondhand smoke [Stein v. Creekside Seniors, L.P., Idaho, March 2016].
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|How to Ensure Fair Housing Compliance When Considering a Smoke-Free Policy|