The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against individuals based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. The Fair Housing Act applies to community associations in that it prohibits discrimination in the provisions of services or facilities with respect to residential housing.
Often in the case of a community association, the most common issues arise in the form of familial status. Familial status means one or more individuals below 18 years of age who are domiciled with a parent or legal custodian or with the designee of such parent or legal custodian and includes a person who is pregnant or in the process of securing legal custody of a child.
Familial status issues arise most often from rules and regulations adopted by community associations that treat residents differently because of their age or which have a disparate impact on residents because of their age. Even though age is not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, the effect of limiting access to services and facilities based on age negatively impacts families with children and constitutes familial status discrimination.
Many community associations try to implement rules and regulations that limit the use of the common elements by children. Where an association gets into trouble is by failing to realize that children have the same rights of access to the common areas as other residents that are adults.
Rules restricting “children playing” in common areas have been ruled invalid because, even though safety concerns exist, the rule is overly broad and has the impact of limited children from using large areas of the property. On the other hand, rules prohibiting bicycle riding, skateboarding, rollerblading, etc. on common area sidewalks, walkways, and parking areas that are age neutral are valid.
Further, requiring the supervision of children on common areas has been held to be unreasonable. Prohibiting the storage of “children’s toys” in common areas is unreasonable; however, a rule requiring persons of all ages keep bikes, strollers, wagons, etc. inside a unit is reasonable because it applies equally to all.
While an association cannot require adult supervision of children, all residents are equally responsible for following rules and regulations regarding disruptive behavior. If a child, or any other resident, is being disruptive or causing a nuisance, a complaint to the Board should be handled accordingly. Residents should handle personal disputes with other residents not involving a violation of the association’s documents individually.
Finally, occupancy limits for units may become a form of actionable discrimination. Federal courts have held that policies limiting the occupancy of one-bedroom units to one person are invalid because of the disparate impact on families and children.
It is important to tailor rules that will be applied equally to all residents, regardless of age. If your association has questions about the reasonableness of its current rules, please call our office and we can review your specific situation.