Justice Department Issues New Guidance on ADA Compliance for Swimming Pools

Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Disability Accommodations, Legislation

By Ronald L. Perl, Esq.

The Justice Department yesterday released a new technical assistance document, “Questions & Answers: Accessibility Requirements for Existing Pools at Hotels and Other Public Accommodations,” regarding the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to swimming pools. The Justice Department also released an updated version of its “ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Accessible Pools—Accessible Means of Entry and Exit.”

These regulations have been issued pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), not the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA), so they apply only to businesses, government facilities and “public accommodations.” Private entities who own, lease or operate facilities that are open to the public, such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors’ offices, day care centers, and recreation facilities, are considered places of public accommodation. Community associations whose facilities are not open to the public are likely not public accommodations, but associations should consult with counsel to be sure.

If you have a question about whether you must comply with these regulations, or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys.

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Kessler to Speak at the Understanding Fair Housing Today Seminar

Posted by on Apr 19, 2012 in Disability Accommodations, Speaking Engagements

Hill Wallack LLP Partner Terry A. Kessler, Esq. will be one of several speakers participating in the “Understanding Fair Housing Today” seminar, presented by the United States  Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (NJDCR) and Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Social Justice. This seminar, presented in recognition of Fair Housing Month, will take place on Monday, April 23, 2012, from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark. There is no charge to attend this event, and up to 5.5 NJ & NY CLE credits will be available.

Ms. Kessler will speak on defending fair housing claims during a panel discussion titled “Understanding the Role of HUD and NJDCR in Handling Housing Discrimination,” which will take place at 3:45 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. The keynote speaker will be John Trasviña, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. Other panel discussions will include emerging issues in Fair Housing Act litigation and the fair housing implications of the foreclosure crisis, and additional speakers will include Seton Hall Law Professor Rachel Godsil and Professors Linda Fisher and Kyle Rosenkrans of the Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice; private practitioners; and representatives from regional HUD offices, the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Opportunity (FHEO), and the NJDCR.

To register, or for more information, please contact Daphney West, CSJ Program Coordinator, at daphney.west@shu.edu or call 973-642-8700.

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Condo FAQs: Reasonable Modifications under the Fair Housing Act

Posted by on Feb 16, 2012 in Condo FAQs, Disability Accommodations

By Jonathan H. Katz, Esq.

Hill Wallack LLP’s Condo FAQs is a continuing series in which we answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) pertaining to condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners’ associations. These FAQs relate to various issues that include interpretation of governing documents, board meetings, suspension of privileges, collections, or bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Question: What constitutes a “reasonable modification” under the Fair Housing Act and when must my association agree to a request from a resident for a modification?

Answer: The Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) makes it unlawful to discriminate in housing based on numerous factors, including race, religion, familial status and disability. One action specifically prohibited by the FHA is the refusal of housing providers, which includes community associations, to permit a reasonable modification – e.g., a structural alteration – of an existing property, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, when the modification may be necessary to afford the person with full enjoyment of the premises.

In order to clarify the questions surrounding what constitutes a “reasonable modification” under the FHA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, issued a Joint Statement that reinforced the rights of persons with disabilities to make “reasonable modifications” to their dwellings or, in some cases, to common areas of a building or complex, so that they can fully enjoy the premises. The stated purposed of the Joint Statement is both to assist housing providers and community associations to better understand their obligations as well as to encourage persons with disabilities to know their rights regarding the “reasonable modifications” provision of the FHA.

The Joint Statement explains who qualifies as a person with a disability under the FHA and what information may be requested by a housing provider or community association regarding the disability. The Joint Statement also discusses specific examples of what constitutes a “reasonable modification,” such as widening doorways to allow for wheelchair access, installing grab bars in bathrooms, or installing a ramp to provide access to a public or common area, such as a clubhouse. Further, although the FHA requires housing providers and community associations to permit these modifications upon proper notice and a request, in many circumstances the person requesting a modification is responsible for payment of any costs involved.

You can read the Joint Statement here.

If you have a question about reasonable modifications under the FHA or another community association issue that you would like us to address, please e-mail it to us, along with your name and your association, to jkatz@hillwallack.com.

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Appellate Division Affirms Suspension of Parking Privileges for Non-Payment of Association Fees Despite Disability

Posted by on Nov 28, 2011 in Disability Accommodations, Legal Decisions, Suspension of Privileges

By Ronald L. Perl, Esq.

The Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court has affirmed a decision of the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, which found that the Victoriana Condominium Association did not act in a discriminatory manner when it suspended the parking privileges of a disabled unit owner for non-payment of association fees. The decision in Shearn v. Victoriana Condominium Association, an unpublished opinion decided on November 23, 2011, found that the Association had suspended Shearn’s parking privileges in connection with his repeated failure to pay condominium assessments. The court determined that the suspension of privileges was a remedy authorized by the Association’s governing documents and had been applied in a non-discriminatory basis, irrespective of Shearn’s disability. In fact, Shearn had not requested a disability accommodation until after his privileges were suspended, and he was granted an accommodation after presenting the Association with adequate medical documentation concerning his disability. In this case, both the administrative agency and appellate court found that the delinquent owner’s demand for a parking accommodation was unreasonable under the circumstances. The Appellate Division opinion can be found here.

If you have a question about suspension of privileges, disability accommodations or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys.

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