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A homeowners association must comply with the Fair Housing Act

A homeowners association (HOA) is the body that governs a housing community. It is an organization that comprises individual homeowners looking to maintain order and peace around the area of their residence and is especially popular in common interest communities (CIC). To establish order, they must have rules and policies in place.

In Michigan, no specific state law limits the authority of an HOA. However, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits these volunteers or elected officials from discriminating against protected classes. It extends to the way the HOA of a community governs the community.

How can an HOA violate the Fair Housing Act?

The protected classes under the FHA include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability. The law makes discriminatory practices against these protected classes illegal. Therefore, an HOA cannot affect an individual’s right to purchase, rent or enjoy the use of the housing and its facilities. If you are a member of your HOA, here are the essential things to know about the FHA:

  • The law prohibits discrimination against families with children under 18. It would be best not to single out children or families with children when making rules and policies. You should refer to children as persons or people and use neutral language so that it applies to everyone and not just children or families with children. Even when you created the policy to keep children safe from hazards, you could impose restrictions that apply to a person’s height instead of persons of a certain age.
  • The law requires you to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. When a tenant or resident with a disability requests a modification or an accommodation, the HOA should consider it. If the request is reasonable and it does not cause any undue burden on the association, the HOA should permit it.
  • The law prohibits any form of discrimination based on protected classes. The HOA should base all its decisions and actions on tangible factors that statistics and documentable evidence can explain. Make sure your actions are by the book. Base actions and decisions on facts you can justify and not personal preference.

The HOA also cannot retaliate against anyone who files a complaint against its actions or members. If a resident or tenant complains or reports any adverse conduct, it might be better to sit back and relax. Try to understand why the person is complaining. The discrimination complaint might not even have any merit.

It is not a matter of what you say, but how you say it

Your HOA is a legal corporate entity, so you are not free from legal liabilities. You must use appropriate and neutral language when enforcing rules and regulations.