Imagine Losing Your Home Because You’re Disabled. It Happens.
If you follow my posts, you know that I’m a civil rights lawyer. Most times, I represent people with disabilities, as they are the victims of most of the discrimination in housing and public accommodations. Sometimes, the discrimination is so blatant, that even opposing counsel will seek early resolution. That happened in a recent case.
I had a client that has autism. She owned her own condominium where she would be able to live out the rest of her days. Her family lived nearby and they were able to check on her. She also had home healthcare aides who care for her on a daily basis. Of course, when they came to assist her, they would need to park their cars at the condominium complex and they would stay overnight until a new aide started a shift.
The condominium board did not like the healthcare aides coming to the complex. The HOA started harassing the aides. They would tow their cars, put stickers on the cars and verbally harass them. They accused them of living at the condominium even though the aides all had other homes where they lived and received mail. Hold on, because it gets worse.
The HOA declared that the aides were “unapproved residents” because they would stay over to provide my client overnight assistance. Having unapproved residents violated the HOA documents, so what did the HOA do? They filed a lawsuit to evict my client from her home. Yep, they wanted to kick her out of her home because she had home healthcare aides. They said she was running a business. They accused my client of running a group home or an assisted living facility. There was no adequate factual basis for the claims.
We responded with a lawsuit for violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Opposing counsel recognized that his clients had violated the law, but he was not the attorney in the eviction case and I wasn’t the attorney in that case either. I was counsel in the federal housing discrimination case. We had to coordinate with other lawyers, but we agreed to suspend both the eviction lawsuit and the Fair Housing lawsuit to work on resolution. This was a good example of two lawyers working cooperatively to resolve a case that could have ended up costing a lot of money in attorney’s fees and damages.
It was good working the opposing counsel because he didn’t assert silly defenses and he recognized that the client's actions were likely unlawful. The case resolved and all parties are satisfied with the outcome. But the outrageous part of this is that an adult with autism was almost evicted from her home because she needed assistance to live in and enjoy her home.
I see discrimination in housing every day. This is why civil rights advocates are needed. Somebody has to stand up against blatant discrimination. People with disabilities need a little assistance to be able to live independently, but the neighbors or the HOA’s continue to perpetuate the discrimination instead of allowing their disabled neighbors to live in peace. HOA’s think they are doing a favor or being nice to allow people with disabilities to have the quiet enjoyment of their homes. It’s not a favor and it’s not being nice. It’s the law. As I tell everyone, if you live long enough, you’re going to become disabled. Treat people like you would want to be treated. It’s not that hard.