Fair Housing

Maintaining an Age-Restricted Community: A Refresher on the Housing for Older Persons Act

If you are reading this, chances are you are one of the millions of baby boomers at or near retirement. Although you might not care for the moniker, the government has officially designated you as an “older person.” If you own property designated as housing for “seniors,” you should periodically refresh yourself on the state of the law protecting “older persons” and to avoid the mistakes of other property owners.

Phil Querin Q&A - Assistance Animal - First There Were Two, Now Two More and Counting ....

Question: It has recently come to our attention that a tenant is in violation of our two-pet policy, as she has admitted that she has 4 small dogs living in her home.  When we speak with her through her door, the smell of dog urine is overwhelming. We have mailed her a letter explaining that this is rules violation and asked that she remove two of the pets by a certain date.  Our letter warned that if she failed to comply, she would be sent a 30-Day Notice to Vacate.

 

She stated she would keep the two extra dogs and claim them as service animal. This week she gave us a letter from her nurse practitioner stating she needed the pets for a medical condition. What are our options? We would like to serve her a 30 Day Notice to Vacate for Cause (violating our 2 pet policy). However, she has been speaking with advocacy groups that tell her we have no right to make her get rid of the two “service animals.”

 

We feel that it is our responsibility as landlords to consistently enforce our community rules, but also don't want to get dragged into costly litigation just to lose in the end due to federal regulations of some kind.

How Age-Restrictive Rules Can Violate the Fair Housing Act: Lessons From the Plaza Mobile Estates Case

“In 1988, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (“FHA”) was overhauled [by the] Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988…. Prior to the amendments, the Fair Housing Act prohibited various forms of housing-related discrimination based on ‘race, color, religion, or national origin.’ … In 1974, discrimination based on sex was added. … In 1988, prohibitions against housing discrimination based on ‘familial status’ …[was] added to the Act. Pub. L. No. 100-430, § 6, 102 Stat. 1619, 1620-21 (1988) [42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq]….” United States v. Southern Management Corp., 955 F.2d 914, 917 (4th Cir. 1992).

The FHA as amended now prohibits refusals to negotiate for the rental of a dwelling space on the basis of familial status, as well as statements indicating such discrimination. Morgan v. HUD et al, 985 F2d 1451, 1457 (10th Cir. 1993) stated that manufactured home “lots are considered dwellings under and within the scope of the [FHA].” (Id. at 1454) Under the FHA, “familial status” is defined as one or more individuals (who have not attained the age of 18 years) living with a parent or other designee having custody of the minor(s), i.e., families with children. 42 U.S. C. 3602(k)

Early on the courts begin analyzing familial status discrimination claims by first focusing on the language contained in the landlord’s rules and regulations. For example, the plaintiff buyers of a manufactured home in Morgan, cited above, contended in a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the park owner had refused to allow the moibilehome sale because the buyers had a three year old son. The judge looked to the park rules, which were drafted by a tenants’ committee before discrimination based on familial status was prohibited, that expressly stated the park was “entirely an adult park” and “no children will be allowed in the park.” Even after the landlord agreed to retract this policy and the mobilehome was sold to a couple with children, after being notified by the buyer’s attorney the “adult only” policy was illegal, the administrative law judge found the landlord liable for discrimination under FHA, and the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed.

This analytical approach used by courts and regulators of scrutinizing a manufactured home community’s rules for evidence of discrimination against families with children has continued to evolve and is even more prominent today as demonstrated by a recent federal case arising out of California.

Phil Querin Q and A - "Assistance” Animals – When Do They Become A Ruse?

 

Question:  Our community is having more and more residents who purchase pets as puppies, sign the MHCO Pet Agreement that CLEARLY STATES our maximum 25 pound weight limit, and then over time, and the animal becomes too large, they refuse to remove it from the community, and claim their pet is really a “service animal,” “assistance animal,” “emotional support animal” or some such other animal which they believe protects them from us enforcing the size limits they previously agreed to.  What can be done? Do we, as landlords, have any recourse to require residents to get rid of their animals, as they are abusing the system to circumvent our size requirements?