Recognizing discrimination in the enforcement of HOA rules

Imagine for a moment that you are living in a development that has a homeowners association. Despite the added expense each month, you’re fairly happy with the association because they have rules in place that make sure that everyone living in the development is in compliance with these rules, thereby greatly reducing the likelihood of a disputes between neighbors.

But one day, you receive a letter from the association that orders you to take down a ramp you had installed to help your child get into the house easier because of their disabling condition. In the letter, the association explains that the ramp is against its policies and tells you that if you don’t take it down, you may incur consequences.

Because most people aren’t particularly experienced handling real estate law cases, the situation above may raise a number of questions. The first question you might be asking yourself is: do I have to comply with the association’s demands? You may then ask: what happens if I don’t comply? While these are both valid questions, there is one more you should consider if a situation such as this arises: is the HOA in this case guilty of discrimination and violating of the law?

For those here in Worcester County who don’t know, it is against federal law to discriminate against someone because of their “race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap,” which is explained in the Fair Housing Act. In our scenario above, forcing you to remove the ramp could qualify as disability discrimination because it “substantially limits one or more major life activities” of an individual on the property.

Though we probably made it rather clear that this scenario was an example of disability discrimination, we’d like to point out that not all situations of discrimination are as easily recognizable to the untrained eye. That’s why individuals who suspect that they have been discriminated against are encouraged to speak to a skilled lawyer who can look over a claim and ascertain whether someone’s rights have been violated or not.