Saturday, August 11, 2012

Feds Squeeze City Of Santa Rosa, HOA For $50K+ To Settle Housing Discrimination Suit Over Alleged Improper Exemption Claim As Age-Restricted Community

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):

  • The Justice Department [] announced an agreement with a California municipality and a homeowners’ association to resolve allegations of discrimination on the basis of familial status in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The settlement, in the form of a consent order, must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

    The department’s lawsuit, which was filed on Nov. 21, 2011, alleged that the city of Santa Rosa, Calif., and La Esplanada Unit 1 Owners’ Association, a homeowners’ association, unlawfully sought to restrict residency at a housing development to seniors aged 55 and older.

    While the law allows an exemption for senior housing, the suit alleged that neither the city nor the homeowners’ association took the steps, such as routine age-verification, necessary to qualify for an exemption to the Fair Housing Act.
  • The homeowners’ association [] is prohibited from excluding families with children from the development unless it affirmatively elects to become an age-restricted community for persons 55 years of age or older and conforms to the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.

    The Fair Housing Act's requirements include ensuring that at least 80 percent of the occupied units are occupied by at least one person who is 55 years of age or older and ensuring there are proper age verification procedures in place.

    In addition, the homeowners’ association will provide compensatory damages to the aggrieved persons in an amount of $44,000 by providing a set-off to amounts it has claimed it is owed by the aggrieved persons.

    The consent order also requires the homeowners’ association’s officers, agents and employees, as well as city employees and agents with responsibilities related to zoning and land use to receive fair housing training, and requires the homeowners’ association and the city to pay $5,000 each to the United States as a civil penalty.

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