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Obtaining Favorable Real Estate Settlements in Cases Involving Housing Discrimination

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Many housing developments and condos have HOAs (homeowner’s associations) that set and enforce regulations and rules. HOAs are under federal jurisdiction, meaning that they cannot engage in housing discrimination. To avoid legal trouble, the HOA’s board needs to know and follow the law. Those belonging to protected groups should also talk to a Coates attorney to learn more about their legal rights.

Powers Held by the HOA
HOAs can be corporations, non-profits or altogether unincorporated. A document called a CC&R, or declaration of conditions, covenants and restrictions, sets forth the rules and regulations for the development. The policies in the CC&R cover responsibilities for homeowners, and often put a significant amount of restriction on individual properties. Restrictions can range from those prohibiting certain activities, to those regulating the exterior appearance of houses.

Housing Discrimination is Prohibited by Federal Law
The FHA (Fair Housing Act) bars anyone from refusing to rent or sell a house based on the tenant or buyer’s color, race, sex, national origin or religion. The FHA also bars discrimination based on a family’s legal status. For instance, a landlord or seller cannot refuse to rent or sell to someone with a child under 18.

HOA regulations give the board the right to approve new renters and buyers. However, because the HOA must follow FHA rules, the board cannot reject an application based on protected categories such as those listed above.

An Exception: Housing for the Elderly
The FHA gives one exception to protected categories -; if a developer wants to provide housing for elderly people, they can do so as long as the development meets certain criteria. All residents must be over the age of 62.

Discrimination Against the Disabled
CC&Rs can regulate the exterior appearance of a home, but the FHA prohibits HOAs from forbidding certain changes to homes of disabled people. For instance, the homeowner’s association cannot keep a wheelchair-bound person from installing a ramp to gain access to the home.

Hiring a Lawyer
Laws surrounding deed restricted communities are complex, and matters concerning housing discrimination are equally complicated. Your case is unlike any other, and you shouldn’t rely on the information given here for legal advice. To receive help that’s specific to your circumstances, call a real estate settlements or civil rights attorney with Coates, Coates & Coates P.A.

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