N.J. Condo Association Settles Disability Discrimination Case

A South Jersey condo association recently settled allegations that it unlawfully discriminated against a resident with a disability by failing to accommodate her disability, announced the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.

The long-term resident had a debilitating lung illness and had a Permanent Disabled Parking Permit issued by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. She generally parked in a “handicapped” parking space close to her unit in the residents’ parking lot.

In early 2007, the resident reportedly fell behind in her monthly condominium maintenance fees, allegedly prompting the association to suspend her use of the residents’ parking lot and other common areas in late 2008. According to the resident, the suspension forced her to park off the premises, often requiring her to walk nearly a mile and exacerbating her lung condition.

In November 2008, the resident reportedly sent a letter asking the association for use of the residents’ lot—despite still being in arrears on her fees—as a reasonable accommodation for her disability.

After her request was rejected, the resident filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The association responded by arguing that it had a right to handle the situation under its bylaws.

Last year, the division issued a finding of probable cause, finding that the association failed to prove that allowing the resident to use the residents’ parking lot would cause it undue hardship, or that her request for an accommodation was unreasonable.

Under the settlement, the condo association agreed to pay $10,000 to the resident and forgive an estimated $12,000 to $15,000 in outstanding maintenance fees. In addition, the association agreed to:
• Pay $5,000 in costs to the division;
• Have its officers attend fair housing training;
• Develop written policies and procedures for addressing future requests for disability accommodation; and
• Have its handling of requests for accommodation monitored by the division for the next two years.

“This is a fair settlement that resolves troubling allegations of discrimination by a condominium association against a disabled resident,” Division Director Chinh Q. Le said in a statement. “This case should serve as a message to condo associations and landlords throughout the state: Persons with disabilities have a right to a reasonable accommodation, and failure to provide it can result in legal consequences.”

Source: New Jersey Division on Civil Rights