I received a question related to a prior post regarding possible discriminatory impact of rules at apartment communities which, on their face, may appear benign. The Fair Housing Defense blog reader asked me for some examples. So, here are four instances in which management ran into trouble with community rules:
An apartment complex enacted a restriction on residents cooking/eating curry at the property. The reason for the rule was that some people objected to food odors. Upon review, however, this was found to have a disproportionate impact on applicants and residents from South Asia.
Next, a different community had a rule restricting the use of tricycles anywhere on the property. The rule was likely passed as it was intended to be a safety measure. Upon challenge, however, it was perceived as a way to discourage families with young children for renting or applying to rent at the property.
Another property passed a rule which required all residents to fly the American flag on national holidays and decorate their homes for Christmas. What could be more patriotic than flying the flag? Well, a family who were Jehovah’s witnesses were refused admittance into the community because they would not follow these requirements. Apparently, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do not fly national flags or decorate for Christmas as part of their faith, these requirements had a discriminatory impact on them because of their religion and, as such, violated the Fair Housing Act.
Finally, a management company refused to permit a Jewish resident from displaying a four-inch mezuzah on her front door. (A mezuzah is a small container holding a scriptural passage.) The property had rules which provided that residents could not change or alter the exterior of the homes and Jewish homeowners were informed they would have to take down the objects or purchase screen doors to conceal them. The rule was determined to have a discriminatory impact on Jewish residents in the community and the owner paid a fine and was required to re-write its policies.
Make sense? This is why it can be helpful to speak with a lawyer like me when drafting your community policies.
Just A Thought.