Mental health issues can impact community associations in a myriad of ways.  Often Associations become the “reluctant care provider” (owners have no family/next of kin, or the family “dumped” the owner in the Association rather than in a care facility).  This can be true of older residents (“aging-in-place”) as well of younger residents.  The COVID pandemic, and the corresponding year of lockdowns, has added extra stress and increased isolation, exacerbating existing mental health conditions.  This has led to an increase of emotional distress, substance abuse, and suicides.

Because community associations are communities, issues that arise with one resident can interfere with another resident’s use and enjoyment of their property.  Mental health issues don’t always stay “contained” within the affected owner’s property – noise, shouting, threats, trespassing, damage to property, physical violence – all can interfere with other residents’ quiet enjoyment of their property.  While these issues can manifest themselves as harassment and hostilities, they can also lead to dangerous situations.  [To read more on dealing with harassment and hostile environment, click HERE.]

While it is not the Association’s responsibility to determine if someone has a mental disability, it is the Association’s responsibility to help ensure that all residents live harmoniously. 
Continue Reading Tackling Mental Health and Aging Issues in Your Community Association

Did you know that homeowners have the right to request reasonable modifications to the common area if they are disabled and the proposed modification helps them use and enjoy the property as it is meant to be?  The federal Fair Housing Act provides as much, and protects disabled condominium and HOA owners who may require such modifications.  How should a Board handle these requests to modify the common area?  A recent case out of the Sixth Circuit provides some guidance.
Continue Reading Reasonable Modifications and the Fair Housing Act—Knowing the Law Can Help Your Association Proactively Avoid Lawsuits

Facts

Defendant, Acacia on the Green (“Association”), is a 273-unit condominium in Ohio.  The Association has a common grilling area because the Association bans grills on patios and balconies because of, among other things, the fire code.  Weiss and Phillips, two Unit Owners, wanted grills on their patios: Weiss asked for a grill and demanded a grill repeatedly over a five-year period and was denied.  Weiss was then diagnosed with lymphoma, had to undergo chemotherapy, and learned he had an immune deficiency.  Weiss took medication for his lymphoma, but did not use a cane or other mobility aid.  Despite his ability to walk, Weiss claimed he had episodes when he was only able to walk a few steps within his unit.  In 2018 Weiss sent a letter from his doctor to the Association Board which stated:

The accommodation for Mr. Weiss to have a grill on his patio is necessary due to his disability from cancer and CVID.  These two diseases substantially affect Mr. Weiss’s ability to walk.  The accommodation will give him full use and enjoyment of his unit.

Phillips also claimed to be handicapped and in need of having a grill on her patio.

When both Unit Owners’ requests were denied, they sued alleging that their requests to have gas grills on their patios was reasonable and imposed little, if any, burden on the Association.  The complaint also alleged that the denials caused a “disruption to their full enjoyment and use of their respective dwellings,” as well as emotional distress.
Continue Reading YES Associations Can Deny a Request for a Reasonable Accommodation Under the FHA and WIN!!!

Facts

Plaintiff, Cohen (“Tenant”) and Defendant, Clark (another tenant, “Clark”) leased separate apartments in the same building on the same day, July 21, 2006.  Both leases prohibited pets in the building or on the premises.  Tenant picked the apartment in part because of its no pet policy, as she had a severe allergy to pet dander that caused her to carry an EpiPen to protect against anaphylactic shock.  A month after entering into the lease, Clark requested an emotional support dog as a reasonable accommodation.  Clark provided the landlord with a letter from his psychiatrist stating that he had mental illness that impaired his ability to function.  The psychiatrist recommended that for his well-being he own and care for a dog.  The manager advised the tenants of the request and asked if any had allergies.  Tenant responded providing detailed information relative to her pet allergy.  The manager contacted the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (“ICRC”) and requested it to review the matter.  “The ICRC’s housing provision is nearly identical to the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA).” The ICRC told the manager that Clark could not be moved to another building as that was unreasonable and that the manager had to attempt to accommodate both issues (Clark’s pet and the Tenant’s allergy).  The manager had them use separate stairwells.  Tenant had allergic reactions such that she seemed to have a permanent cold and her throat swelled at times.
Continue Reading Another Helpful Emotional Support Animal Case

Facts

Plaintiff, Linder (“Tenant”), entered into a lease in October 2016.  Tenant agreed in the lease not to bring dogs, or other animals on the premises.  Five months later Tenant asked the Landlord if she could have an emotional support animal.  She gave one of the internet letters to support her need for the animal.  The letter said the Tenant was disabled but did not identify the disability or identify any limitations or symptoms of the disability.  Upon receiving the request, Landlord asked the Tenant to consent to his sending the medical provider a letter that asked:

  1. The nature of the mental or physical impairment that is disabling, including a reference to the DSM 5 description of the condition;
  2. A statement of what major life activity this disability interferes with;
  3. Whether the medical provider interviewed the patient;
  4. A statement that the medical provider conducted an examination of the patient appropriate for the diagnosis of the mental impairment in question under the professional guidelines applicable to a Licensed Clinical Social worker and as described in the DSM 5;
  5. That the medical provider photocopy his or her license and send it to Landlord;
  6. Whether a physical exam was conducted of the patient; and
  7. How many sessions the medical provider had with the patient;

The Landlord asked the Tenant to sign the consent letter.  Tenant did not provide the additional information nor sign the consent form.  “As a result, Landlord took no action on Tenant’s request.” Tenant brought a cat in anyway in August of 2017.  The Landlord fined and later evicted the Tenant.  Tenant then filed a complaint against the Landlord for “discrimination on the basis of disability and handicap…”
Continue Reading FINALLY, a Helpful Emotional Support Animal Case