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Can HOA Enforcement Actions Equate to Discrimination?

discrimination.jpgThe recent, unpublished opinion in Radell v. Park Wilshire Homeowners Association (2011) illustrates the importance of fully complying with prescribed HOA enforcement procedures. In Radell, the Plaintiffs alleged that the Willshire Bark Homeowners Association (“Association”) Board of Directors (“Board”) “committed a series of discriminatory acts intended to diminish the presence of Puerto Rican women in their upscale condominium building.”

The issue arose out of the Defendant’s use of their maid’s unit for residential purposes– a use which the Board felt constituted a violation of the Association’s CC&Rs. Rather than following the Association’s prescribed enforcement procedures, the Board declined to extend a confidential disciplinary hearing regarding the issue to the Defendants. The Board opted instead to publish the alleged violation to the entirety of the Association’s membership.

To make matters worse, the Board held an unnoticed, confidential Board meeting where they initiated a recall election against the Defendant Board Member. The Defendants then brought a housing discrimination action against the Association under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHA) by alleging that the Board “engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination through disparate treatment on the basis of race, ancestry and national origin.”

Though the the holding in Radell primarily touches on Anti-Slapp motions in the context of housing discrimination, it also demonstrates how a Board’s conduct in enforcing CC&Rs can subject an Association to defending costly lawsuits. Boards must be diligent in fully complying with prescribed enforcement policies and procedures when dealing with each and every potential violation.

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