Davis v. Echo Valley Condominium Association, No. 17-12475 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 7, 2018)

Summary

The Eastern District of Michigan court held that a smoking ban demanded by a disabled owner was an unreasonable accommodation for purposes of the Fair Housing Act since the measure was not approved by the owners, and the Association was powerless to impose a ban without an owner vote.

The Facts

Plaintiff owned a Unit in the Echo Valley Condominium Association (the “Association”). Plaintiff complained to the Association that her neighbors smoked tobacco. She alleged that she could regularly smell it and that it exacerbated her existing respiratory health conditions.

Plaintiff informed the Association about her medical issues and asked the Association to address the smoking by creating a rule that all smokers in the Association should be required to seal gaps around doors and windows to prevent smoke from escaping. The Association declined to enforce a rule because neither the Association documents nor state law prohibited people from smoking in their homes. Continue Reading Smoking Ban Was An Unreasonable Request

A Board’s blatant mishandling of an emotional support animal request led to the owner not only having a Fair Housing claim against the Association for wrongful failure to provide a reasonable accommodation, but also a claim for third-party harassment when the Association failed to step in and stop other unit owners from blasting the owner publicly on a blog.

Facts.  In a 2017 case, an owner that lived in a no pets community applied to the Board requesting an emotional support dog, providing a doctor’s letter prescribing the dog. The Board didn’t want to deal with the request and kept putting it off, hoping it would go away. Meanwhile, a Board member told another owner about the emotional support animal request, and the owner, who was an active blogger and upset by the presence of a dog in their community, started blogging about the situation, naming the owner and poking fun at her need for an emotional support dog using cruel and chastising language. Continue Reading Can an Association’s Denial of a Valid Emotional Support Animal Request Create a Hostile Environment?

In Welsh v. McNeil, 162 A.3d 135 (2017) a board member and unit owner (“Board Member”) sued another unit owner (“Landlord Unit Owner”) for violation of the Association documents claiming that the Landlord Unit Owner violated the leasing provisions by allowing someone (the “Tenant”) to occupy the premises who was not on the lease.  The lease was only to an unincorporated entity, and did not name who would be occupying the premises.  Before suit was filed the Landlord Unit Owner and Tenant asked the Board to waive the bylaw provision as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Administration (“FHA”) to afford recovering alcoholics an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a single family dwelling of their choice. Continue Reading Can Your Association End a Unit Owner’s Suit by Post-Suit Filing Actions?

Condominium associations and homeowner associations are sued every day. These suits can arise based on construction claims, contract claims, negligence claims and various alleged statutory violations – We all know about the Fair House Act!  Or the Wisconsin (or whatever state you are in) Consumer Act!  Associations seem to attract people who feel that they are entitled to something because they now live in an association.  Of course they are entitled to what the law and documents allow them, but for some that never seems to be enough.  Often these types of owners or residents make up stuff or read the internet until they find some article or statement that supports their point of view and then cite it as fact. Yes, we have all dealt with those people. However, despite the validity (or lack of validity) of any lawsuit, there are some basic steps that every association should follow once served or notified of a suit. Continue Reading Sued! What Should Our Wisconsin Condominium or Homeowners Association Do NOW?

A unit owner claimed that she needed an emotional support animal because of a disability, and provided a doctor’s note to the condominium association supporting this need. The unit owner selected a dog as the emotional support animal, and as a reasonable accommodation the association agreed to allow the dog into a no-pet building.  The unit owner demanded the right to take the dog everywhere, including into the swimming pool, making various arguments and attaching various Fair Housing Act articles relating to the need to allow people with disabilities equal access to the property of an association.  Continue Reading Emotional Support Animal – Even the FHA Has Limits

There are some new HUD (Housing and Urban Development) Rules that went into effect October 2016 which may have a significant impact on Condominium and Homeowners Associations, and although we very much dislike these new Rules for the reasons set forth below, it is important for Associations to be aware of these new liability traps.

The new HUD Rules state that there are two types of harassment (Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment) that are now recognized and identified by the FHA (Fair Housing Act). Continue Reading You Can’t Simply Look the Other Way—New HUD/FHA Rules that Affect Your Associations

If your condominium association documents include restrictions on occupancy (how many people can reside in a unit), be aware of what the federal law states on the issue to avoid potentially costly lawsuits brought by disgruntled unit owners.

While it is legal for a condominium association to adopt and enforce occupancy policies, those rules (and enforcement of the rules) must be reasonable and in compliance with state laws and local ordinances. If they are not, the rules run the risk of being found discriminatory based on familial status under the federal Fair Housing Act. The act prohibits discrimination on the basis of (among other things) familial status, which means the presence of children in the family. Continue Reading Enforcing Occupancy Requirements in Your Condominium

Non-action may no longer be a safe choice. In October of 2016, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) added certain provisions to the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) which impose additional liability for condominium associations, homeowners associations, and landlords based on non-action.

One of the main additions to the FHA was the inclusion of a prohibition of quid pro quo harassment. Under the new provision, it is illegal to request or demand conduct in exchange for the sale or rental of a unit or dwelling, the provision of services for a unit, or the terms or conditions of residing in a unit. Continue Reading FHA Update