As a member of the Board of Directors of your HOA, you know that the Fair Housing Act forbids it to discriminate against anyone belonging to a protected class. What you may not realize however, is just how extensive this list of protected classes is.
The Homeowners Protection Bureau explains that “protected class” refers not only to a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin, but also to the following:
- Familial status
While your HOA has the right to screen potential buyers or renters, your screening committee must take extreme care to ensure that a denial is not in any way discriminatory, either on its face or by having a disparate impact on someone in a protected class.
Experts advise that screening policies should be:
- Facially neutral as to all protected classes
Familial status issues
Familial status includes much more than merely discriminating against families with children. For instance, if your community has a swimming pool, restricting access to it by children under the age of 12 could violate the Fair Housing Act. If your HOA wants to restrict pool access by youngsters, your better choice is to do so by height, not age.
To avoid running afoul of the FHA’s disability provisions, your HOA should ensure that all houses or units in your community, as well as common areas, are accessible to disabled residents. This could require making “reasonable accommodations” or “reasonable modifications,” as necessary. In addition, if your HOA has a no-pets policy, it must make an exception to any disabled person who has a service dog or other animal.