September 2009 Coach's Quiz
We have given you six rules on complying with fair housing law in the management of your common areas and amenities. 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, which was built in 1999, was built on hilly terrain, so there is a long and steep stairway to the building entrance. The FHA requires you to provide an accessible route to the building. True or false?
A resident tells you that she has become disabled and can no longer climb the few steps to the building entrance. She wants you to install a ramp so she can have easier access to her building. Do you have to grant her request?
Yes, because you have to grant a request for a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability.
No, because residents are not allowed to modify anything outside their units.
No, but you may have to allow her to install the ramp at her own expense.
Your community just finished an extensive landscaping project to reseed lawns, install water features, and replace plantings. To protect your investment, you may adopt a rule prohibiting children from playing outside without violating fair housing law. True or false?
EXTRA CREDIT: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
A large community—consisting of several hundred units had a rule forbidding residents and guests from using the grounds surrounding the units “as a place to congregate or allow children to play.” The community said that enforcement of the rule promoted safety, avoided property damage, and ensured residents quiet enjoyment of the property.
Two families, former residents, sued the community for violating the FHA by making and enforcing the rule against children playing near the buildings, by refusing to renew the leases of residents whose children violated that rule, and by “creating a hostile living environment for families with children.” According to the families, the community disproportionately enforced the rule against families with children and that adults who congregated near the units were rarely cited for violations.
The community denied enforcing the rule only against families with children by showing that several households of adults received the lease violation notices for violating the rule—one for playing football and another for allowing party guests outside to use foul language. The community also presented evidence of complaints received from other residents that the children were playing soccer in the yard, playing in the street, running between cars in the parking lot, riding their bikes on the newly seeded lawn, skateboarding on the sidewalk and between cars, and yelling loud enough to drown out a resident's television.
The community asked the court to dismiss the case.
How would you decide?
Coach's Answers & Explanations
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rule #1 applies here.
Rule #1: Do Your Homework on Accessibility Requirements
Under the FHA's design and construction standards, all covered multifamily dwellings must have at least one building entrance on an accessible route. However, the rule carves out an exception where it is impractical to provide such an entrance because of the terrain or unusual characteristics of the site.
Correct answer: c
Reason: Rule #3 applies here.
Rule #3: Consider Reasonable Modification or Accommodation Requests
Under the FHA, it is unlawful to deny a request for a reasonable modification—to permit a resident with a disability, at her expense, to make structural changes to existing premises to afford her full enjoyment of the premises. You may have to allow the resident to install a ramp to her building entrance as long as she has a disability-related need for the request—though you are not required to pay for it under fair housing law.
Wrong answers explained:
A request by a resident with a disability to alter an existing structure—for example, by installing a ramp—is considered a request for a reasonable modification. In contrast, a request for an exception to your rules, policies, and procedures is considered a request for a reasonable accommodation. There is some overlap in the rules, but one basic difference is that the resident is responsible for paying for a reasonable modification, while the community is obligated to pay costs associated with reasonable accommodations.
Modification requests apply not only to the interior and entrance of individual units, but also to common and public use areas, such as lobbies, main entrances, and parking lots.
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rule #4 applies here.
Rule #4: Ban Bad Behavior—Not Children
Fair housing law protects familial status, so you may not adopt rules that unduly interfere with the ability of families with minor children to use and enjoy the community's facilities. Although you have a legitimate reason to protect your investment, it's better to ban anyone from the landscaped areas than to target children playing outside.
ANSWER: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
In a case decided last year, a federal appeals court upheld the judge's decision to dismiss the case against the New York community.
The court ruled that the families didn't have enough evidence to show that the community applied the rule only to families with children. The evidence showed that lease violation notices were sent to the families when their children were playing sports or congregating loudly in the areas surrounding the units, activities that were also prohibited to adults, and for which adult residents also received lease violation notices. Since the rule resulted in citations against residents—both with and without children—the court ruled that the families failed to show they were treated differently from other residents based on a protected characteristic.
The court also affirmed that the rule did not have a significantly adverse or disproportionate impact on families with children. The evidence showed that six families with children received lease violation notices, and two of those families received lease nonrenewal notices. Yet similar lease violations were issued to three sets of adult residents without children.
Finally, the court ruled that the community did not discriminate against the families by not renewing their leases. The community presented evidence that the families as well as other residents who did not have children were denied lease renewals for failure to comply with the rule [Khalil v. The Farash Corporation, New York, May 2008].
See The Lesson For This Quiz
|Complying With Fair Housing Law In The Management Of Common Areas And Amenities|