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How do Discrimination Laws Apply to Private Condominium Association Boards?

February 24, 2016 Posted in Community Association Law

Earlier this year, a story emerged involving a luxury New York City apartment building implementing a “poor door” policy, sparking understandable public outrage and accusations of blatant tenant discrimination. According to reports, One Riverside Park – which boasts both $2.1 million “tower townhomes” and $830/month low-income housing – constructed two separate entrances to the building, one for low income residents and one for the units that were not low income.

Almost immediately, residents and New Yorkers alike decried the blatant elitism even though others explained that the alternate entrance was related solely to the availability of certain common areas not accessible to low-income renters.

From a discrimination standpoint, does this “poor door” policy violate the Fair Housing Act or relevant applicable anti-discrimination housing statutes? In all likelihood, probably not – particularly considering the fact the building adheres to New York City’s Inclusionary Housing Program, and had a rational basis for the separation of entrances.

However, the story stands as a reminder to condominium associations that anti-discrimination laws absolutely do apply in the resident application process, notwithstanding the private sector nature of an elected, resident-maintained condo association board.

Anti-discrimination Laws to Consider

In many New York and New Jersey condominiums, boards are tasked with reviewing applications for the rent or purchase of a building unit. If a condominium’s governing documents allow the board to refuse an application, the following factors cannot be considered in that decision:

  • Race, color or national origin
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Familial status
  • Disability

Moreover, a board is not permitted to make assumptions about an applicant’s membership in any of the above classes, based on that applicant’s name or current address.

Special Considerations for Age & Familial Status

In addition, generally speaking, a condominium association is not permitted to disqualify a potential resident based on age or that person’s status as a parent, or the fact that he/she has children. Certain narrow exceptions apply to this mandate, however, notably in the context of condominiums catering to those of retirement age (e.g., 55+ communities).  Under regulations enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 55+ communities are permitted to exclude children, provided the following three criteria are met:

  • At least 80 percent of all units have at least one occupant who is 55 years of age or older, and;
  • The community publishes and adheres to policies and procedures supporting its intent to exist as a 55+ community; and
  • The facility properly verifies the age of all residents.

Even if the criteria are met, a condominium association may only limit its residents to senior citizens. The failure to meet the above-mentioned criteria, while also refusing to admit applicants with young children, may result in exposure to liability for discrimination based on familial status.

Contact an Experienced New York & New Jersey Condominium Association Lawyer Today!

If you are involved with the Board of your condominium association and would like to ensure that your community’s policies are lawful, contact Griffin Alexander, P.C. today: (973) 366-1188.

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