Just this week, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced that it settled a housing discrimination case involving a condominium owner who alleged her homeowners association and management company violated the law by refusing to permit the resident to display a mezuzah (a small religious object placed on the door of many Jewish homes in fulfillment of a religious obligation) on her unit door. The condo association took the position that the mezuzah violated the condominium’s conditions and restriction documents.

The complaint, filed in June 2019, asserted that the association and management company refused to permit a mezuzah to be place on her door. According to the complaint, the association and management company flat refused to change their policy, even after learning of the religious nature of the mezuzah and the reasons for the request. Furthermore, the complaint asserted that someone forcibly took the mezuzah off the door in July 2018.

Following a mediation sponsored by the DFEH, the parties agreed to a $40,000 settlement (including damages, attorney’s fees and costs). In addition to the financial component, the condo association agreed to amend its documents, to specifically permit residents to display one or more religious items on the entry door or on the entry door frame of their units.

From the DFEH’s perspective, the agency believed that by failing to permit a small mezuzah, the condo association was making housing unavailable to members of a certain religion.  I suspect HUD would take the same view. The takeaway here is that management can certainly have rules concerning decorations on unit doors and door frames – but we need to be nimble about religious articles. And if a question is raised or an accommodation is requested, we need to engage in the interactive process and look for a solution.

Just A Thought.