Homeowners associations are known for their system of rules that facilitate a consistent and high-quality living environment throughout the neighborhoods that participate.
People of all races and ethnicities are eligible to live in an HOA if they sign the agreement. The governing body is legally mandated to treat all residents equally and may not favor or target certain households; to do so is to discriminate and violate the HOA’s legal authority. Included under this umbrella of fair treatment is the collection of special assessments.
This article explores how anti-discrimination laws apply to HOA special assessments and what homeowners can do if they believe they are being unfairly targeted.
Can Certain Residents Be Targeted with a Special Assessment?
No, specific residents may not be compelled to pay a special assessment while others are exempted. California law stipulates that the cost of a special assessment is divided equally among all households within the HOA.
Homeowners associations that selectively charge special assessments to members or groups within the HOA may violate not only California law but also the federal Fair Housing Act.
If these selective assessments are levied because a specific member or group is of a protected class, this could serve as grounds for a discrimination claim.
Special assessments are a carefully controlled strategy open to governing bodies and must adhere to the rules stipulating the maximum eligible amount, notification deadlines, equitable distribution, and more.
What Is the Federal Housing Act?
The Federal Housing Act (FHA) prohibits housing providers, including HOAs, from discriminating against or refusing service based on race, religion, sex, nationality, familial status, or disability. In California specifically, these protections have been expanded to include other elements:
- age (over 40)
- sexual orientation
- gender identity
- gender expression
- medical conditions
- genetic information
- marital status
- military or veteran status
A special assessment may violate California law if it is not applied according to state statutes, and may concurrently violate the FHA if a resident is being targeted due to a protected factor.
Under the Fair Housing Act, Can Residents Receive Accommodations to a Special Assessment?
Although the Fair Housing Act ensures that reasonable accommodations are never refused, the community is not required to provide accommodations that would result in the removal of or significant alteration to a special assessment, such as an increased payment timeline.
Households may not be excluded from special assessments on the grounds of “accommodation.” However, the HOA is still mandated to offer reasonable accommodations to members in need, such as providing notice of a special assessment via voicemail instead of physical mail for a household with blind residents.
What is HOA Special Assessment Discrimination?
Discriminatory behavior is not uncommon within residential communities in California, unfortunately, and it can manifest in various forms. One prevalent issue revolves around homeowners’ associations (HOAs) and their enforcement of rules and regulations.
While HOAs work to maintain the aesthetics and functionality of communities, they sometimes engage in discriminatory practices. These can manifest in many ways; in California, if this results in targeted HOA special assessments, legal action may be taken.
One common example is the unequal application of rules. Residents have reported instances in which HOAs selectively enforce regulations against certain individuals or groups, often based on factors such as race, ethnicity, or religion.
Furthermore, issues related to accessibility for individuals with disabilities persist. Some residents have faced obstacles when requesting reasonable accommodations or modifications, despite these rights also being protected under the federal Fair Housing Act.
In response to these challenges, it’s essential for residents to be aware of their rights and the laws that protect them against discrimination in housing matters. Reporting discriminatory behavior to relevant authorities or seeking legal assistance can help address these issues and promote fair and inclusive housing practices throughout California.
Seek Legal Aid for HOA Special Assessment Discrimination
The use of special assessments is tightly regulated to ensure fair and equitable treatment to all residents. However, many homeowners associations fail to properly enact special assessments in accordance with both state and federal law.
If you feel that you have been discriminated against during the process of a special assessment, whether due to the amount of the bill, the manner in which you were (or were not) notified, or any other element, the next best step is to work with a legal team to explore your options.
The professionals at Lehr Law fight to uphold anti-discrimination laws for HOA residents in California. Contact Lehr Law to schedule a consultation to discuss the events surrounding your special assessment bill and whether your homeowners association acted within its legal authority.