Helpful articles to aid Management Companies, Board Members, and Housing Cooperative Professionals in handling complex legal issues.

Accommodating the Disabled Member

What are the legal obligations a cooperative housing association owes to disabled members who seek changes in the policies or rules of the Cooperative because of the member’s medical condition?


Among those horrifying things cooperative attorneys at our office, hear about are Board members who still do not get it! Did you know that there is such a thing as a “Fair Housing Tester?” Did you also know that these Testers are paid employees and that they are paid to contact your cooperative to see if your Board members and Management Staff are ensuring an equal opportunity to housing for all persons in protected classes? Can you even name all of the protected classes?


Spotting a Strawman and the Distinction Between Guests and Unauthorized Occupants.

Every Housing Cooperative establishes a set of membership application and eligibility criteria. Screening applications, while itself is not an unlawful practice if decisions do not violate the Fair Housing Act for discrimination against one or more protected classes (i.e., race or color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability) or other relative federal, state and local laws, serves a legitimate purpose. These purposes include insuring that members can meet financial obligations, that members and their immediate family meet occupancy standards for certain sized dwelling units, and passing criminal background checks.


Federal Appeals Court, in Davis v. Echo Valley Condominium Ass’n, et al., Affirms Trial Court’s Dismissal of Plaintiff’s Fair Housing Act Lawsuit Over Claims Stemming from Smoking in Condominium Unit.

On December 19, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an Opinion affirming a Michigan federal District Court’s dismissal of a condominium unit owner’s lawsuit alleging discrimination under the Fair Housing Act against a condominium association for its failure to ban smoking as a reasonable accommodation request. This case carries significance for condominium and other association-based communities in how courts continue to address claims under the Fair Housing Act relating to smoking inside a building or unit and the odors that result. This article goes over the history of the case, the Sixth Circuit Court’s opinion and analysis, as well as some key things that the association did that were noteworthy in the opinion.


Does Your Cooperative’s Waiting List Accommodate Disabled Applicants and Members?

Most co-ops offer different types and sizes of units including 1 to 3 bedrooms with various floor plans and square footage combinations. As is often the case, members desire to move from one unit to another. There may be many different reasons for moving such as an increase in family size or a unit with a better view or access to green space or parking. But in some cases members will want to move from their unit to another unit for accessibility purposes or because they have a disability and another unit will better enable them to enjoy the privileges of cooperative living than their current unit.


Update on Proxies

As previously reported, the Detroit office of HUD has issued a statement that the provision in many coop bylaws that restricts who may carry a proxy in the case of married couples is violative of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. That much we agree with. However, HUD has suggested that Boards may correct this situation by adopting an amendment to the bylaws. That is patently incorrect. Here is what we suggest:


Understanding fair housing and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Discussions about civil rights laws are almost commonplace now, and anti-discrimination concepts are familiar even to those who don’t completely understand how the laws work. For example, due to an increase in education and the prevalence of media coverage of high-profile lawsuits, most people realize that it is illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of:


Fair Housing, Discrimination and Sexual Harassment: The Law, Examples, and Best Practices to Avoid Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Claims

With discrimination claims on the rise and the possible expansion of protected classes (i.e., sexual orientation or transgender status) from a recent United States Supreme Court opinion in Bostock v. Clayton Cty, Georgia, Nos. 17-1617 et. al., 590 U.S. ___ , (more) 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020), in which the court held that under Title VII, it is unlawful discrimination for employers “to fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual” because of their sexual orientation or transgender status, there is never a better time for housing cooperatives to refresh their knowledge of fair housing and employment issues. The law pertaining to fair housing, discrimination and sexual harassment claims are ever evolving and a complex field, so knowledge of key factors and best practices will put cooperatives in a better position to avoid unwarranted discrimination lawsuits. First, a recap of some fundamental laws, concepts and illegal conduct.