Some private nonprofit organizations are searching websites to find homeowner association rules that discriminate against children. This happened with one of our clients that had an old set of rules posted on its website. One such organization filed a claim with the Civil Rights Department (formerly the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)). The Department sent a demand letter to the association.
The letter is quite revealing because it shows what the State of California considers discrimination against children. Following are excerpts from its letter to the board of directors. Nothing has been added to the letter--the bolding and italics are in the original, as are the comments in parentheses.
DEPARTMENT OF FAIR EMPLOYMENT & HOUSING
RE: Housing Rights Center v. ____ Homeowners Assn.
[A review of ] the association's website revealed the following violations:
It states that, "children are not allowed to play in the garages, the flower beds, lake or streams or, after 8 p.m. on the Fire Road." (This rule specifically targets children and is considered a violation of the laws enforced by this Department.) The rules must be deleted or revised to delete the word "children" wherever it appears.
Swimming pool hours at the two family pools are from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. (You can not have separate pools. All pools should be able to be used by anyone regardless of their age or family status.)
Children's toys and other play equipment including strollers must be taken home after use. (You cannot have a rule which identifies a specific protected group. Rules have to be general in nature.)
Young people, like all residents, are to stay out of the ivy patches, flower bets and the waters of the lake and streams. (You cannot have a rule which identifies a specific protected group. Rules must be general in nature.)
There are several rules regarding the Recreation Center which require that children have adult supervision. This cannot be done unless you can provide documentation from the manufacturer of the equipment stating that it is a safety issue for individuals under a certain age. If you are unable to provide documentation to support your position of a safety defense then the rules must be eliminated.
Dept. of Fair Employment & Housing
To avoid litigation, the board of directors agreed to (i) remove all discriminatory language from the Rules, (ii) send a letter to the membership that the association would no longer violate laws protecting families, and (iii) attend anti-discrimination classes put on by the Housing Rights Center.
Recommendation: Associations should review their rules & regulations and immediately remove any discriminatory language. In addition, associations should create a password protected area of their website for posting governing documents so that only members can have access to those documents.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.