Animals and the Fair Housing Act

 

There is often confusion about when animals must be accommodated when owned by a handicapped owner who applies for an exception to a pet rule.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability.

The FHA makes it unlawful for a person to refuse "to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.

"Handicap" is defined as: "a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities."

 

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Death in Florida Demonstrates Need For Vigilance By Board and Managers

          A condominium association and its management company were found liable in March for the accidental death of a 9-year old boy and ordered to pay his parents millions in damages.

          Andrew Curtis was biking with his father past the entrance of the Villas on the Green condominium association in Jupiter, Florida, in January 2011 when Helen Bygel pulled out and fatally struck Andrew with her car. Bygel says she couldn’t see the boy because the association’s overgrown hedges impeded her view.

          Andrew’s parents sued Bygel, Villas on the Green and the association’s management company for negligence. At trial, a jury discovered the association’s hedges were nearly two times taller than city code and that the 37 inch stop sign at the association’s entrance was poorly placed and nearly 4 feet shorter than Florida Department of Transportation requirements.

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ASSOCIATION FINED BY DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FOR FAILING TO MAKE A REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION

Yet another example of the risk involved in deciding not to make a requested accommodation in a prudent manner in light of the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.  This often stems from board members and managers not knowing that "handicap" is a very broadly defined term under the Fair Housing Act.  Handicap is defined as follows: 

 

"Handicap" means, with respect to a person, (i) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities; (ii) a record of having such an impairment; or (iii) being regarded as having such an impairment. The term does not include current, illegal use of, or addiction to a controlled substance as defined in Virginia or federal law.

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Insurance/Fidelity Bond Minimum Requirements

Question:

What are the minimum requirements for insurance/fidelity bond for a 10 Unit condominium with $50,000 in reserves and annual receipts $60,000?

 

Answer:

Thank you for visiting our site.

Your question is a timely one, as the requirements for fidelity bonds were modified by statutory amendments that took effect in 2008.  Specifically, Virginia Code § 55-79.81(B) was changed so that it now reads:

        B. Any unit owners' association collecting assessments for common expenses shall obtain and maintain a blanket fidelity bond or employee dishonesty insurance policy insuring the unit owners' association against losses resulting from theft or dishonesty committed by the officers, directors, or persons employed by the unit owners' association, or committed by any common interest community manager or employees of the common interest community manager. Such bond or insurance policy shall provide coverage in an amount equal to the lesser of $1 million or the amount of reserve balances of the unit owners' association plus one-fourth of the aggregate annual assessment of such unit owners' association.  The minimum coverage amount shall be $10,000.  The executive organ or common interest community manager may obtain such bond or insurance on behalf of the unit owners' association.

Based on the facts provided in your email, I calculate that the blanket fidelity bond or employee dishonesty insurance policy must provide coverage of at least $50,000 (reserves) plus $15,000 (one-fourth of the aggregate annual assessment), for a total of $65,000.

 

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Liability related to Speeding Vehicle

Question: What liability is a Condominium Association exposed to regarding an accident within the community due to speeding? We have a posted speed limit of 15 MPH and have regularly in community newsletters and correspondence reminded residents to slow down. Could we be successfully sued for an accident simply because it happened on our streets?

Answer: You cannot be held liable for the criminal acts of third parties. This does not mean someone will not try to sue looking for a deep pocket to collect from but there is no liability if you have properly posted the speed, it is a reasonable speed and there is nothing which the Association has done to encourage speeding. It may be helpful, if you can prove a violation, to fine the individuals through a properly held due process hearing. Good luck

 

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Dealing with Mold

Q: In our condo one of the unit owners has had a persistent leak from some plumbing pipes that the board, through our contractors, has been battling for a couple of years, but the leaks are causing some mold that was discovered recently when part of the ceiling and some wallboard was removed. Now the unit owner is saying that she is suffering respiratory problems because of the mold and is threatening to sue the association. What action should we take? How likely is she to succeed with a law suit?

A. The mold topic is a good one to discuss because it is fraught with misunderstanding by many who have to deal with it. Since we live in a coastal area there is frequent water infiltration into structures of all types through various components due to wind driven rain. Of course, there are other sources such as leaks in water and drain pipes. Even though we have been exposed to mold for hundreds of years mold litigation has increased dramatically over the past few years and is a popular topic in legal seminars.

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