Michigan Fair Housing Attorneys
Fair Housing Compliance
Condo Law Practice Areas
Michigan Fair Housing Act Defense and Compliance
The fair housing lawyers at Hirzel Law, PLC represent condominium associations, co-operatives, homeowners associations, landlords, property managers, university housing providers and summer resorts with respect to compliance with the Federal Fair Housing Act, Michigan Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act and Michigan Condominium Act. The requirements contained in the Federal Fair Housing Act, Michigan Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act and Michigan Condominium Act are extremely nuanced and complex. The above statutes prohibit discrimination against a co-owner, owner or tenant based upon age, disability, familial status, marital status, religion, sex, race, color, or national origin.
MCL 559.147a – When Is a Disabled Co-Owner Entitled to an Accommodation?
As a general rule, disability related modifications requests are governed under federal laws, specifically the Federal Fair Housing Act, as well as state law. The Federal Fair Housing Act requires a condominium or homeowners association to provide a reasonable accommodation to a disabled person to modify a unit or the common elements if such modifications is necessary to afford that person full enjoyment of the premises, subject to certain exceptions.
Similarly, the Michigan Condominium Act has special requirements that specially relate to granting requests to modify a unit or common elements in a Michigan condominium. MCL 559.147a(1), provides in pertinent part:
A co-owner may make improvements or modifications to the co-owner’s condominium unit, including improvements or modifications to common elements and to the route from the public way to the door of the co-owner’s condominium unit, at his or her expense, if the purpose of the improvement or modification is to facilitate access to or movement within the unit for persons with disabilities who reside in or regularly visit the unit, or to alleviate conditions that could be hazardous to persons with disabilities who reside in or regularly visit the unit. The improvement or modification shall not impair the structural integrity of a structure or otherwise lessen the support of a portion of the condominium project. The co-owner is liable for the cost of repairing any damage to a common element caused by building or maintaining the improvement or modification, unless the damage could reasonably be expected in the normal course of building or maintaining the improvement or modification. The improvement or modification may be made notwithstanding prohibitions and restrictions in the condominium documents, but shall comply with all applicable state and local building code requirements and health and safety laws and ordinances and shall be made as closely as reasonably possible in conformity with the intent of applicable prohibitions and restrictions regarding safety and aesthetics of the proposed modification.
559.147a also sets forth a procedure by which a disabled person can submit his or her alteration plans to the Association’s Board of Directors for its determination as to whether they comply with the statute. Once such plans are submitted, the Association is required to address them in a timely fashion and may only deny the plans for good cause.
Are Michigan Condo Associations Subject to the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Act?
Michigan condo associations are not subject to the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Act. However, when evaluating requests for reasonable accommodations to modify the common elements on the basis of disability in the condominium association, you must know the following:
- The Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Acts, (PWDCRA), MCL 37.1101 et seq does not apply to a co-owner’s post-sale request to modify the common elements of a condominium based on a disability related need.
- The Michigan Condominium Act, specifically, MCL 559.147a, provides the applicable framework that Michigan condominium associations must follow in evaluating a post-sale request for a co-owner to modify the common elements based on a disability related need. Condominium associations should also be aware that MCL 559.147a provides a 60-day timeframe to approve or deny requests to modify the common elements based on a disability related need.
- Under the Fair Housing Act, Condominium associations are permitted to request verification of a disability, which is not readily apparent. A condominium association must respond to a co-owner’s request for a reasonable accommodation in a reasonable time period as well.
Are Michigan Condo Associations Subject to the American with Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) regulates “places of public accommodation,” but exempts “strictly residential facilities.” The Department of Justice and the Federal courts have consistently determined that residential condominiums are not “places of public accommodation,” so long as the units and common areas are limited to the exclusive use of co-owners and their guests. However, if areas of a condominium association are open to the general public – such as the operation of a sales office or of a senior citizens center, or by the one-time rental of the condominium clubhouse or swimming pool to a co-owner or outside guest – then those areas may be subject to the ADA. If part of an Association is a “place of public accommodation,” then the Association: (1) cannot deny persons with disabilities the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services and accommodations in that place; (2) must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices and procedures where necessary to afford goods, services, facilities, and accommodations to individuals with disabilities; and (3) must remove accessibility barriers where such removal is “readily achievable,” such as installing grab bars in restrooms, ramps and creating curb cuts.
What Are The Defenses to a Fair Housing Claim?
Owners in condominium or homeowners associations may file administrative discrimination claims with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights or the Department of Housing and Urban Development. While some claims are not valid, all claims must be responded to in a timely manner. Similarly, some owners bypass the administrative process and file a housing discrimination claim in either state or federal court. If your homeowners or condo association is facing legal action, it should contact an experienced HOA lawyer, such as those with Hirzel Law, to ensure that the condominium or HOA’s interests are protected. Common defenses to Fair Housing Claims are as follows:
- The claim was brought outside the applicable statute of limitations.
- The Plaintiff does not qualify as somebody that is disabled under the Fair Housing Act.
- The requested accommodation is not reasonable.
- The requested accommodation is not necessary for the owner to enjoy the condominium.
- The requested accommodation would constitute an undue burden on the community association.
Contact Hirzel Law Today!
The Hirzel Law attorneys are experienced in the Federal Fair Housing Act and can help condominium and homeowners associations avoid potential claims. When faced with an issue that could trigger a claim for discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial discrimination or national origin, a condominium or homeowners association should contact an HOA attorney immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fair Housing Law in Michigan
How can a Michigan Fair Housing attorney help my HOA or Condo Association?
Attorneys who are experienced in the Federal Fair Housing Act can help condominium and homeowners associations avoid potential claims. When faced with an issue that could trigger a claim for discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial discrimination or national origin, a homeowners association should contact an HOA attorney immediately.
Unfortunately, common sense does not always result in the appropriate course of action as this area of law is highly technical and fact-specific. Accordingly, a community association attorney can help provide the necessary guidance to a homeowners association.
What should I do if someone is filing a civil rights claim against my HOA?
Owners in homeowners associations may file administrative discrimination claims with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights or the Department of Housing and Urban Development. While some claims are not valid, all claims must be responded to in a timely manner. Similarly, some owners bypass the administrative process and file a housing discrimination claim in either state or federal court. If your homeowners or condo association is facing legal action, it should contact an experienced HOA lawyer, such as those with Hirzel Law, to ensure that the HOA’s interests are protected.
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