October 2010 Coach's Quiz
We have given you five 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!
Communities may regulate smoking in common areas, but they could face liability under fair housing law if they adopt policies to ban smoking inside individual units. True or false?
The Fair Housing Act does not require communities to restrict smoking, so a community may not be liable for a fair housing violation for a resident's exposure to secondhand smoke. True or false?
EXTRA CREDIT: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
A resident who moved into a two-bedroom townhouse in late 2005 had a variety of health problems, including knee problems, which caused her to stop working in early 2005. In December 2005, she asked for a transfer to a ground-floor unit because her knee problems impaired her ability to walk and climb stairs. According to the resident, she was told none were available so she was placed on a “mandatory move list,” which would allow her to move to a unit she could afford. Allegedly, she did not offer documentation from a health care provider at the time of her request, but she later provided some medical documentation from her failed efforts to obtain Social Security Disability benefits.
Meanwhile, the resident encountered financial difficulties, which caused her to fall behind on rent payments and triggered her request for a Section 8 housing voucher. There was a delay in the issuance of the voucher—and the community sent her a demand for possession of the premises in late 2006. In response, the resident complained that she had been passed over for an available one-bedroom unit that would have met her needs, but had been rented to someone else.
In early 2007, the resident said she filed a second accommodation request—this time for an air-conditioned ground-floor unit that was not around smoking or other chemicals. Allegedly, she produced medical documentation of a newly diagnosed lung problem that caused shortness of breath and oxygen dependency, which her doctor said required her to live in a smoke-free environment that was air conditioned and did not expose her to chemicals. She claimed that she was offered a one-bedroom unit, but rejected it because it was not smoke-free or air conditioned.
A short time later, HUD officials allegedly granted her a temporary waiver to its Section 8 requirements to allow her to remain in her two-bedroom unit until a suitable one-bedroom unit became available.
The resident sued the community and its management company for violating federal and state fair housing laws by refusing or ignoring her repeated requests to accommodate her disabilities.
The community asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the resident did not qualify for protection as an individual with a disability, that both requests for accommodations were inadequate, and that the HUD waiver operated as a settlement of her fair housing claims.
How did the court rule?
COACH'S ANSWERS & EXPLANATIONS
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rules #1 and #2 apply here:
Rule #1: Check State and Local Requirements
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: b
Reason: Rules #3 and #4 apply here:
Rule #3: Take Complaints About Secondhand Smoke Seriously
Rule #4: Consider Accommodation, Modification Requests from Residents with Disabilities
Even though federal fair housing law does not require communities to restrict smoking, a community could trigger a fair housing claim for failing 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 modifications or reasonable accommodations to enable the resident to fully use and enjoy the dwelling.
ANSWER: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
In a ruling issued last year, a federal court in Michigan refused to dismiss the case, ruling that further proceedings were needed to resolve the resident's fair housing claims.
The court ruled that the resident could qualify as an individual with a disability under fair housing law. She presented medical documentation of knee problems, which caused her to stop working and impeded her ability to walk and climb stairs. She also had medical evidence of her breathing problems, which caused shortness of breath and made her oxygen dependent. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the resident, a jury could reasonably conclude that she had physical impairments that substantially limited one or more of major life activities—walking, breathing, and working.
The court rejected arguments that her accommodation requests were defective. Although she allegedly failed to submit the first request in writing on the community's required forms, the FHA does not require residents to comply with a community's rules or submit accommodation requests in writing. Viewing the evidence in her favor, a jury could conclude that she orally requested an accommodation for her knee condition when she asked for the transfer to a ground-floor unit in late 2005 and filled out related paperwork a few months later.
The court noted that her second request for an accommodation became intermingled with her need for financial assistance—it appeared that she fell behind on rent payments and encountered problems related to the issuance of the housing assistance voucher. Nevertheless, she filed the paperwork for the second accommodation request and provided medical documentation of ongoing knee problems as well as newly diagnosed lung problems that required her to be in a smoke-free environment, with air conditioning and which did not expose her to chemicals. Viewing the evidence in her favor, a jury could find that she requested an accommodation for both her knee and breathing problems in early 2007.
Finally, the court ruled that the HUD waiver, which allowed the resident to continue living in her two-bedroom townhome until the community could provide her with a suitable one-bedroom unit, did not operate as a settlement of her fair housing claims [Powers v. Kalamazoo Breakthrough Consumer Housing Cooperative, September 2009].
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|Clearing The Air: How To Comply With Fair Housing Laws When Dealing With Smoking|