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Subject: Laminate Floors and Fair Housing
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Author Messages
ZhenyaR
(California)

Posts:15


10/08/2011 7:43 PM  
We have received a request from one of the owners for a permission to install laminate floors due to severe allergies. The owner claims Fair Housing laws and that this is a disability. What kind of proof can we request from the owner that the disability actually exists.

Thanks
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/08/2011 7:58 PM  
What is wrong with laminate flooring for heavens sake?
ZhenyaR
(California)

Posts:15


10/08/2011 8:01 PM  
In my opinion there is nothing with laminate floors, but our CC&Rs prohibit them for sound reasons. Only carpet is allowed on any floor other than first.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/08/2011 8:19 PM  
Yes, I know, the builder puts up a paper house and to compensate for the noise he conveniently puts in ‘carpet only’. Perhaps your covenants are ‘older’ and you can argue the technology has changed. Laminate flooring floats and am sure the padding under varies in quality. Some may reduce the noise better than others, may be?. Tile or stone is another option popular in Florida, not sure about California. Marble floors are gorgeous. This may not help you any but something to think about.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:4733


10/08/2011 8:23 PM  
Yes there is an issue with laminate flooring. They are noisy for a downstairs neighbor. Think this is a way for the owner to try to circumvent the rules. I wouldn't approve it. Sure they will threaten a lawsuit. Which if it's written in your documents they won't win. Just tell them they can sue and show proof it's not allowed if they go that far.

Don't believe this is a fair housing issue. As the HOA doesn't actually own the property. They just kind of manage/regulate it. So I say don't be intimadated and deny the request. There are future owners to consider and it's unfair to the rest of the owners. Approve one, approve them all. Then you have to change your documentation to allow it...Much worse situation in the long run...

Former HOA President
ZhenyaR
(California)

Posts:15


10/08/2011 8:39 PM  
Melissa, unfortunately I have to disagree with you. Fair Housing laws definitely apply to HOAs. An HOA must provide reasonable accommodation to people with disabilities, for example if an owner wants to install wheel chair ramp. The issue is very clear if a disability is visible and obvious. The fact that HOA doesn't own the property doesn't help since it's HOA's governing documens that restrict its use.

I agree with you and I think that this case is where an owner is looking for a way around rules. What I don't want to do is get our association in any trouble for fair housing violations. In California not only a tenant may go to court but can also file a campaign with FHA and get association in a lot of trouble.
GlenL
(Ohio)

Posts:5023


10/09/2011 12:41 AM  
Zhenya, how much proof you can request should be a question for your HOA attorney. There have been dramatic improvements in sound barrier technology in recent years and the HOA can specify the quality of barrier material as long as it doesn't increase the cost of the project, if it does the HOA may have to "eat" the difference. Included in the approval of the changes the HOA should have a clause that the flooring be removed and carpet installed if the unit is sold or rented, again ask the attorney.

"Common sense is like deodorant--the people who need it most never use it."
BruceF1
(Connecticut)

Posts:2437


10/09/2011 3:11 AM  
Zhenya,

Perhaps the attached document issued by the Justice Department and HUD regarding reasonable modifications under the FHA may be useful. See question 6.

Attachment: 1109111147971.pdf

PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/09/2011 6:10 AM  
'Yes there is an issue with laminate flooring. They are noisy for a downstairs neighbor.’

Actually we put laminate floor in one guest bedroom on the second floor and not noisy at all. And they do not squeak like some wood floors do. BUT, we put down a dense padding and our home is well built.

A lot of people are also allergic to carpets and should be given another choice, in my opinion. Most modern high-rise condos around us are now going with non-slip stone or ceramic tiles and with those there should be no noise issue at all. Cork flooring is also an option but not very popular in Florida. Bamboo is nice, but some people are allergic to it.

Many materials can be used to soundproof floors. Here is just one example.


http://www.acousticalsource.com/floor-soundproofing.html


BruceF1
(Connecticut)

Posts:2437


10/09/2011 6:25 AM  
Posted By MelissaP1 on 10/08/2011 8:23 PM
Sure they will threaten a lawsuit. Which if it's written in your documents they won't win.

Don't believe this is a fair housing issue.

Unfortunately, neither of these statements are correct.

According to the Justice Department and HUD document I posted earlier, the HOA must allow exceptions to the restrictions in their CCRs if the modifications are necessary to permit individuals to enjoy normal life activities (which cover a broad range). If the disability or impairment is not obvious the individual only has to show that the impairment exists (ie., a doctor's statement) and that the requested modification is related to the impairment. The law does apply to HOA's (specifically mentioned in the law). The modifications must be made at the individual's expense (not the HOA's). I believe the HOA can suggest alternatives. Also, the individual does not have to sue. They can file a complaint with the federal agency responsible for enforcing the law and the federal agency files suit against the HOA.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:4733


10/09/2011 6:40 AM  
I think bringing in federal laws into a state issue, causes much confusion and unnecessary fear. This doesn't fall under the federal fair housing rules no matter how you slice it. Quite frankly, giving a knee jerk reaction is what gets many HOA's in trouble. I would say the HOA is completely within their rights to refuse to allow the laminate flooring. It's in the contract the owner signed when they bought the property. The law was there PRIOR to this purchase now wasn't it?

Normally, I would say consider it but NOT in this case at all. The owner purchased the property and now wants to change the rules to satisfy their needs. If HOA members want this rule lifted/changed, then the owner should present the idea to the BOD and members to make the change. This way it is fair to all members and the whole HOA would be compliant with this supposed law they are trying to weezle in.

Deny the request or allow the change in the documentaton for all. That's it....

Former HOA President
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/09/2011 7:02 AM  
‘The owner purchased the property and now wants to change the rules to satisfy their needs.(Melissa)

Melissa,

This is really not fair. People do age and people do get ill, you know. We do not know anything about the owner. Why not trying to find a way to accommodate people’s needs in such a way it would not impact their neighbors if at all possible? Does everything have to be black and white?

JeffR7
(California)

Posts:251


10/09/2011 7:58 AM  
Zhenya, you've been given some very wrong advice here, unfortunately. Bruce is the one that provided absolutely correct information.

- Fair Housing laws absolutely apply to HOAs and condos. It's actually explicitly stated there, not to count numerous court cases on the subject.
- You may not deny reasonable requests for accommodations. It absolutely doesn't matter what contract an owner signed when they bought the property.
- You may request reasonable proof of disability, but you may not request it to be from a specific doctor or a doctor in general. In fact based on the law even a letter written by the requestor's friend must be accepted.
- You may not even ask the nature of disability.

The risk of being investigated and sued under Fair Housing laws is much greater than allowing an owner to install hardwood floors. Don't risk it. There are too many hungry lawyers waiting for you to screw this one up.

On another note you should really consider amending your CC&Rs to allow floors other than carpet. You may want to put a limitation on sound insulation and/or type of padding used. In today's technology a top quality hardwood floor sound insulation might be better than low quality carpet.

Jeff Ross
http://www.hoacorner.com
JohnB26


Posts:0


10/09/2011 8:01 AM  
A PROPER substrate/under-layer for 'laminate'/engineered flooring usually costs MORE than the inexpensive flooring itself.

The proper under-layer will be VERY sound resistant ... probably quieter than 'cheapo' carpeting.

The real issue is noise transmission, NOT material choice.

However ... it is EASIER to enforce 'knee jerk' rules ..............
JohnB26


Posts:0


10/09/2011 8:02 AM  
... previous post just 'beat me out'
BruceF1
(Connecticut)

Posts:2437


10/09/2011 8:36 AM  
Posted By MelissaP1 on 10/09/2011 6:40 AM
I think bringing in federal laws into a state issue, causes much confusion and unnecessary fear. This doesn't fall under the federal fair housing rules no matter how you slice it.

Melissa,

You're way out of your league on this one. This is not a state issue, it is definitely a federal issue and it does fall under the FHA no matter how you slice it. If you had taken the time to read what I had posted earlier, you would have learned that. However, since you didn't, I'll post some of the sections from that document here. The emphasis is mine:

"A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, in order to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises. Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of dwellings and to common and public use areas. A request for a reasonable modification may be made at any time during the tenancy. The Act makes it unlawful for a housing provider or homeowners’ association to refuse to allow a reasonable modification to the premises when such a modification may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities full enjoyment of the premises."

"Courts have applied the Act to individuals, corporations, associations and others involved in the provision of housing and residential lending, including property owners, housing managers, homeowners and condominium associations, lenders, real estate agents, and brokerage services."

"When a person with a disability believes that she has been subjected to a discriminatory housing practice, including a provider’s wrongful denial of a request for a reasonable modification, she may file a complaint with HUD within one year after the alleged denial or may file a lawsuit in federal district court within two years of the alleged denial. If a complaint is filed, HUD will investigate the complaint at no cost to the person with a disability.

"The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department brings lawsuits in federal courts across the country to end discriminatory practices and to seek monetary and other relief for individuals whose rights under the Fair Housing Act have been violated."

You should also be aware that if any provision of any CCRs (or any other contract, for that matter) violates any law (whether it be a federal, state, or local law), that provision is unenforceable.




TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:8795


10/09/2011 9:18 AM  
Zhenya,

I would suggest that if you do have to approve the flooring, make sure to specify that the carpet must be reinstalled when the person with the disability is no longer using the unit as a place of residence.
FredS7
(Arizona)

Posts:529


10/09/2011 10:44 AM  
A further thought-

If laminate flooring is allowed, that does NOT eliminate the right of the neighbor below to have "quiet enjoyment" of their property. If there were a problem, it seems to me that the HOA and downstairs resident would have the right and duty to enforce this. With fines, lawsuits, etc.

This might provide a route for requiring the allergic resident to install sound-deadening.

It also might provide a route for denying (it's not reasonable if it adversely impacts a neighbor) or requiring the sound-deadening (as a reasonable modification).

MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:4733


10/09/2011 10:51 AM  
Apples and oranges. One has nothing to do with the other. The only effect a federal law would have is regards to funding loans. If the Federal government feels that the HOA's rules are in violation of some kind of act, they would cease funding their type of loans for that area. It means the HOA couldn't offer FHA, Veteran, or other government backed type loans. Which would hurt the HOA since the number of loans available for purchasers would be less and may cost more. Hurt a few to get what one wants kind of thing.

I say consult an attorney familiar with contractual or HOA laws. (Not a Real estate attorney). You may find this isn't a federal case. It's a local or state case if anything. The HOA has a right to enforce and create it's own rules such as restricting type of materials used. Any court should support this and the HOA would win.

Another example of someone making a federal case out of something just to get what they want in a HOA...Tim has given the best advice...If anything, they have to replace it once they leave/sell...This is all a bunch of bull created by this owner just to get their way and that is what I am standing by. I wouldn't let them install the flooring period unless they presented as a whole to the HOA to make it a equal decision amongst ALL the owner. Hence, wouldn't that make even more in line with the Fair housing law? Isn't fair if only one member is allowed a variance...Why make a rule only fair to 1 person?

Former HOA President
AnnJ1
(Florida)

Posts:121


10/09/2011 11:11 AM  
Hi Zhenya,

I completely understand. Having lived in high rises and subject to noise issues, sound abatement is a very important matter. I have personally experienced a situation which became unbearable when an upstairs unit removed carpeting and replaced it with marble flooring. BTW, it looked beautiful but the sound transmission for every movement within the above unit resounded to the lower unit with a magnification of five times normal noise levels. These were newly constructed condos with approx 3,000 sq feet per unit in a 40 story hi rise. Unfortunately, the remedy for the owner was very costly (over $50,000) and entailed removal of the marble and a new substrate. These were friends and unfortunately they had not read the documents prior to the marble installation.

Now, I am living in a condo with 30 plus buildings and two stories in each building. Our declarations address the issue as follows:
...............................................................
Replacing carpet with Tile or Hardwood Floors. No owner, occupant or any other person may replace carpeting with a tile, marble, vinyl, hardwood floor or other hard surfaced flooring material, on the interior of a Unit which is located above another unit without first obtaining written approval of the ARC as set forther in paragraph 16. Among other factors, the ARC, as applicable, may consider whether the change will cause noise to any unit below which will exceed the average noise level in units below units with carpeted floors and that the weight of such proposed flooring is appropriate and will not cause problems to the structure or subflooring.

The owner applying for such approval shall provide the ARC with information regarding these factors as well as other information requested by the ARC regarding the proposed flooring and its effect; provided, however, the noise level requirements shall be considered to be met if the owner provides a sound transmission test that the proposed flooring will create a noise level less than a standard level set by reasonable regulation of the ARC as applicable. Notwithstanding the above, at least 80% of the unit (excluding the kitchen and bathrooms) shall be carpeted unless the flooring is soundproofed so as not to exceed the noise level in units with carpet floors.
.......................................................................
Our ARC guidelines expand the above with:
A sound test, paid by the owner and in the unit making the application, is required prior to removing the carpet from the unit. A guarantee must be provided with the owner guaranteeing to restore the carpet if the noise level exceeds the initial sound test with carpet. The noise level must be verified by a final sound test paid by the owner.

Second floor units: Tile or vinyl may be installed in kitchens and baths. Installation of tile, in kitchen or baths, requires a sound proofing material (¼ cork underlayment) to be installed prior to the installation of tile. No hardwood or laminates are allowed in kitchens and baths.
.....................................................................

FWIW, I carefully read our documents regarding this matter when considering to purchase or not and particularly because of my past experience. I believe you can "reasonably" accomodate the "allergic to carpet" owner if you followed the above or similar quidelines. The peaceful existance to the below unit owner is equally important and simply asking for removal of the flooring upon moving out will not address any suffering in the meanwhile for the lower unit owner.

I hope this saga gives you food for thought.....

Ann
JohnB26


Posts:0


10/09/2011 1:02 PM  
"A sound test, paid by the owner and in the unit making the application, is required prior to removing the carpet from the unit. A guarantee must be provided with the owner guaranteeing to restore the carpet if the noise level exceeds the initial sound test with carpet. The noise level must be verified by a final sound test paid by the owner."

JeffR7
(California)

Posts:251


10/09/2011 1:42 PM  
Melissa, is there a reason why you keep repeating the same factually wrong information over and over again, even after you've been provided with facts proving that you are wrong.

Federal Fair Housing laws apply to HOAs the same as they apply to any other entity or person in any business related to housing (landlords, financing companies, management companies, property managers, HOAs, real estate agents, etc.)

An HOA can and should have a right to setup and enforce its own rules as long as they don't violate any federal, state, or local laws. Those laws will always prevail. Following your logic we may get an association that has a rule for example not allowing kids (not talking about over 55 communities), or not allowing certain ethnicity or race. Federal laws exist exactly to prevent that.

HOAs don't offer any financing, ever. So lending has nothing to do with the issue. HOAs establish and enforce rules for their communities, nothing else.

PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/09/2011 2:04 PM  
Does a sound test have to be done for every unit? It seems unnecessary, no?
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/09/2011 2:11 PM  
A sound test, paid by the owner and in the unit making the application, is required prior to removing the carpet from the unit. A guarantee must be provided with the owner guaranteeing to restore the carpet if the noise level exceeds the initial sound test with carpet. The noise level must be verified by a final sound test paid by the owner."



This provision does not talk to me. There should be some standards, may be? Gosh,this is getting complicated and can prove to be quite costly.
AnnJ1
(Florida)

Posts:121


10/09/2011 2:16 PM  
Hi Petunka,

Each unit has a different floor plan, number of windows, exposure etc. and the sound testing would be dependant on the type of hard floor covering being tested. We have had unit owners sound test before and after and the results vary. Curiously though.... some folks abandon the idea for the change-out when they find out the cost of the sound tests. There are many specialists in this area who do the testing and since the new trend here for hardwood flooring, they are quite busy!

Ann
BruceF1
(Connecticut)

Posts:2437


10/09/2011 2:21 PM  
Posted By PetunkaM on 10/09/2011 2:04 PM
Does a sound test have to be done for every unit? It seems unnecessary, no?

I'm not sure where that comes from, unless it's from the CCRs of John's HOA.

I'm also not sure that the feds would allow this requirement. The FCC doesn't take too kindly to restrictions which burden the individual with extra expense, so maybe HUD and the Justice Department don't either.

I think people also need to understand that allowing an exception to comply with some federal requirement doesn't mean that the HOA has to allow it for everybody. Some people may think that laws against discrimination are unfair or are in themselves discriminatory. If someone doesn't like the laws, they should complain to their Congressman. Otherwise, we have to abide by them.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/09/2011 2:38 PM  
Hi Bruce,

It comes from the covenants posted by Ann.

Hi Ann,

Any idea of the cost for a typical let’s say 2 bedroom 1,200 sq. ft. unit?
AnnJ1
(Florida)

Posts:121


10/09/2011 3:30 PM  
Hi Petunka,

Around $1,000.

I might add that this stipulation has worked very well for us. I've seen similar language in at least five condo docs and while it seems extraordinary to a HOA, a COA in this area deals with this frequently. We don't have fence, garbage cans, plants, issues but living in close proximity brings about a plethora of other issues! Personally, it is worth it to me. I enjoy all of the amenities and freedom from maintenance. I travel a lot. Prior to the past ten years, I've always owned single dwellings which suited my life style at that time.

Additionally, I do not believe any legal authority (HUD,ADA or any of the alphabet soups) would think it is unreasonable to request this kind of testing. It is fair to other unit owners as well as the person in need; whether it be for aesthetic or medical needs. Reason isn't foremost.... fairness is!

Ann

BradP
(Kansas)

Posts:2640


10/09/2011 4:07 PM  
I will add my 2 cents to this, those who say this is not a federal issue are wrong, ADA is a federal law. When you get into disabilities, ADA and Fair Housing that is all federal stuff and i wouldn't mess with that as it will only get ugly. Consult your attorney, provide a "reasonable accomodation" and move on.
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/09/2011 4:26 PM  
Ann, thank you. I do not think $1K is unreasonable. I too am sensitive to noise and would certainly do it for others, if required.
BruceF1
(Connecticut)

Posts:2437


10/09/2011 4:47 PM  
Posted By PetunkaM on 10/09/2011 4:26 PM
Ann, thank you. I do not think $1K is unreasonable. I too am sensitive to noise and would certainly do it for others, if required.

Personally, I don't think this is unreasonable either, especially given that good quality flooring, regardless of the material, is costly.

However, when it comes to making decisions as a board member, I try not to let my personal feelings, beliefs, or emotions enter into my decisions. I must make my decisions based on the facts as I understand them and what I believe is in the best interests of the community as a whole. More than once I have voted in favor of a motion that contradicted my personal feelings because I felt it benefited the entire community. If I believed complying with federal requirements was a greater benefit to the community at large than the benefit to a neighbor on the floor below, I would vote accordingly.
AnnJ1
(Florida)

Posts:121


10/09/2011 5:19 PM  
Petunka and Brad.....


I don't want to hijack this thread but I think the info below is pertinent and applies to the OP ...... regarding the ADA and FHAA and specifically condo associations. I'm sharing this because I've often heard ad nauseum "must comply with ADA" and additional myths regarding the FHAA.

Here is a link to Attys Becker and Poliokoff which addresses the issue...DOES ADA AMERICANS WITH
DISABILITIES ACT AFFECT YOUR RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY?

http://www.becker-poliakoff.com/pubs/newsletters/cu/cu_2007_v9.pdf
.......................................................................................
Excerpted from the article.....

Subchapter III of the ADA regulates private entities
which fall within the definition of a “public accommodation”.
...................

One thing is, however, relatively clear. Traditional residential condominium associations are not subject to the ADA.
However, they are subject to the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA). (See, 42 USC § 3602, 1998). The FHAA
prohibits condominium associations from discriminating against people on the basis of handicap, and requires
condominium associations to permit disabled persons to make reasonable modifications to the condominium property, so as to enable the unit owner’s enjoyment of the premises. However, unlike the ADA, the FHAA provides that
IF MODIFICATIONS ARE TO TAKE PLACE, THE MODIFICATIONS ARE AT THE EXPENSE OF THE REQUESTING OWNER. Further, the association can establish reasonable conditions regarding the modification.
Unlike an association’s ability to “amend out” of the definition of a Public Lodging Establishment (discussed above) and consequent application of the ADA, associations cannot “amend out” of the FHAA.

Even a community which prohibits rentals altogether is subject to the FHAA. However, the association is not obligated to grant every request made by a disabled unit owner. Every request for a “reasonable modification” depends upon the specific facts involved and must be addressed on a case by case basis.

HTH and hope you don't think this is a stretch from the OP's original inquiry.
Ann
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/09/2011 6:00 PM  
Ann,

Thank you for posting the article, have not seen this one before. It is complicated and I will try to read it again, tomorrow.
BruceF1
(Connecticut)

Posts:2437


10/09/2011 6:22 PM  
Ann,

What you posted pretty much agrees with the information I posted earlier. Also worthy of note are the sentences, "However, the association is not obligated to grant every request made by a disabled unit owner. Every request for a “reasonable modification” depends upon the specific facts involved and must be addressed on a case by case basis."

Clearly, the requested modification has to be related to the disability that is claimed. The Justice Department document I attached in an earlier post also gives an example of a request that can be denied because this requirement is not met.

I think the important thing here is that one shouldn't simply dismiss such a request on the assumption that the individual is merely trying to get around the restrictions. The request may well be based on a legitimate need and federal law requires the association to seriously consider the request to find a solution that solves the problem and will be satisfactory to the association as well. It may mean making an exception to some rule, regulation, or even the CCRs, but the fact that such an exception is made to be compliant with federal law should be sufficient to deny similar requests by individuals who do not qualify for such an exception.
AnnJ1
(Florida)

Posts:121


10/09/2011 6:56 PM  
Yes, Bruce... we are definitely on the same page here. I read and SAVED your earlier attachment. Assuming the request for a modification is based on false pretenses is, IMHO, a disaster waiting to happen and I thoroughly agree with your position of caution.

To me, the original poster was concerned about the verification of a medical condition and I was curious as to why the concern wasn't ..."how are we gonna fix this". The unit owner wanted hard flooring medically warranted or not! Thus, I posted from a position of fairness to any homeowner with flooring/noise issues such as my association's way of "fixing it". Anyway, it was only a suggestion and I hope it was taken in the spirit given.

Gonna revert back to my lurking mode....

Ann
ZhenyaR
(California)

Posts:15


10/09/2011 9:33 PM  
Thank you all for replying to my original message. Bruce, a special thank you to you for posting the attachment.

Some have asked why I don't want to solve the problem as a whole, bur rather deal with the exception. The fact of the matter is that I do want to solve it. I personally believe that HOAs shouldn't control people's lives and definitely shouldn't interfere with how they decorate their homes. With that said current CC&Rs prohibit hardwood floors and there are certain members of the board that are not willing to even consider it. I've tried many things, but so far haven't succeeded. In addition there is no support to spend the money and go through the whole ordeal of CC&R amendment. In California it requires a secret ballot and our bylaws require a majority of owners (not a majority of quorum, but majority of all owners) to pass it.

In this particular situation I have no way of knowing if the person's disability is real or made up. Obviously it's not visible since we are talking about allergies. I asked the questions because I think that a risk of a legal problems if we deny the request greatly outweighs any issues arising from granting it. At the same time I don't want to just rubber stamp the approval.
BruceF1
(Connecticut)

Posts:2437


10/10/2011 4:53 AM  
Zhenya,

I agree, if the request is legitimate, then I would be inclined to grant the request. Otherwise, I would not. Also, in my experience, I have known people who do have allergies to carpet fibers, so I know such allergies do exist. One might wonder, however, if carpets are installed in the individual's workplace (if employed), how they are able to cope with their allergies. Or, how do they cope with such allergies in public places, such as doctors' offices, stores and restaurants?

That aside, consider this: If the request is legitimate and it is denied, and if the individual decides to pursue the matter under the FHA, then the individual would, at that time, have to prove that, indeed, such an allergy exists. Therefore, I don't believe it would be unreasonable to request a reliable written statement attesting to such a disability before considering the request.

If it were me, I would request that the individual submit a statement from a doctor stating that the individual has a known allergy to carpet fibers. Although the statement can be from any reliable source, I don't think the FHA prohibits such a request in this case. If the individual truly has such an allergy, there should be no difficulty in complying with this request.

I would explain to the individual that because the "carpets only" restriction is contained in the governing documents, the board is powerless to grant any exceptions unless it can be established that such an accommodation is necessary to meet FHA requirements. Because the disability is not outwardly obvious, a statement must be kept on file to establish that fact. Furthermore, such evidence would be necessary anyway, if the request is denied and the individual decides to pursue the matter further. As I said previously, if the request is legitimate, this should not pose any problem for the individual.

Once you have such information, you can better assess any risk and render a decision.

As to whether or not the association can require specific materials or perform sound tests, that issue is also sort of covered in the document I posted earlier. That document seems to imply that if additional costs are involved beyond those required to modify the premises to satisfy the needs of the individual's disability, the additional costs must be borne by the association. Since I have no knowledge of various flooring materials, their sound transmission characteristics and their costs, I can provide no guidance there.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:4733


10/10/2011 6:43 AM  
Here's the deal with laminate/wood flooring. It's NOT just decorative. So this isn't a decor issue the HOA is trying to enforce. It is more of a functional and in this case a health issue. However, show me proof where wood/laminate flooring reduces allergies and allergies fall under a handicap...(I digress.) The issue lies with noise/disturbance installing the flooring would cause other neighbors/members. A serious consideration and the most important. I have lived in apartments with non-carpeted surfaces upstairs and the noise level was really disturbing.

We have to also recognize that the HOA doesn't actually own the property. The MEMBER of the association OWNS it. That member is responsible for their own property. The HOA is responsible for making sure the rules created by the members of the HOA are enforced. That means when you bought the property and became a HOA member, you agreed to abide by the rules of the HOA when taking care of your property. The intent is to keep home values at appropriate levels.

This is also why the fair housing law wouldn't apply as a HOA is a group of individual homeowners who have agreed to create and abide by their own set of rules. A HOA isn't an entity like an office building. It's just a group of like-minded individuals with a vested common interest. Which translates the owner knew when purchasing and agreed to the rules of the HOA. If they had an issue with carpeting, then that should have been addressed during the SALE of the home. NOT after they took possesion of the home. I don't have to make my home abide by any Fair housing or ADH rules so why would a HOA?

Notifying FHA will do severe damage to the HOA and potential buyers. If indeed this was a violation, it would then subject ALL the owners to making the corrections or face loan reprucutions. Meaning don't expect the Federal government backed loan programs to be available until the HOA is working in accordance to the law. Which translates that ALL the owners would have to contribute ALOT of money to the HOA's budget to make it compliant. Do you want to pay a special assessment or be subject to less available loan programs to sell your house? Don't think soo...It's like cutting off your nose despite your face.

Overall, if you want the rule, then change the rule for ALL. Otherwise, Deny..deny...deny...Don't worry about a lawsuit threat as it will just be empty or not worth pursuing...Especially since their excuse doesn't hold water...

Former HOA President
PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/10/2011 7:07 AM  

Here is an interesting article:

‘Carpet is a virtual magnet for allergens like dust mites, pet dander, mold spores and other potentially aggravating proteins. Allergens are antigens, typically proteins, that provoke allergic reactions like coughing and sneezing in people with hypersensitive immune systems. Allergies can be triggered by many things found in your home such as carpet, which may contain 100 times more allergens than hard floors [source: e-healthy-homes].

The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) defends its product, claiming that carpet fibers actually trap allergy-provoking substances like dust and pollen and prevent them from circulating in the air where you're more likely to encounter them. While this may be true for those of us blessed with more tolerant immune systems, medical professionals often advise people with severe allergies to remove wall-to-wall carpeting.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America agrees with the CRI: There are indeed more allergens on surfaces than in the air, but, the organization adds, the slightest movement can disturb them. That means that whenever you sit on that shag carpet, you're sending all those allergens airborne where they can circulate for several hours [source: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America].

..and the link to CRI.

http://www.carpet-rug.org/commercial-customers/green-building-and-the-environment/green-label-plus/index.cfm

PetunkaM
(Florida)

Posts:958


10/10/2011 7:22 AM  
However, show me proof where wood/laminate flooring reduces allergies and allergies fall under a handicap...(I digress.)

Melissa,

you simply do not understand that allergies are all about weak immune system.

JamesC
(Maryland)

Posts:282


10/10/2011 7:50 AM  
Posted By MelissaP1 on 10/10/2011 6:43 AM
Here's the deal with laminate/wood flooring. It's NOT just decorative. So this isn't a decor issue the HOA is trying to enforce. It is more of a functional and in this case a health issue. However, show me proof where wood/laminate flooring reduces allergies and allergies fall under a handicap...(I digress.) The issue lies with noise/disturbance installing the flooring would cause other neighbors/members. A serious consideration and the most important. I have lived in apartments with non-carpeted surfaces upstairs and the noise level was really disturbing.

..





Melissa:

I agree with you on all the posts you have put out on this topic. Anyone who would believe it would not be a severe issue for anyone living below someone with laminate flooring has a hearing disability.
I take it from reading the posts, the discussion concerns condos. If so, then why can't the HOA designate that "ONLY" homes on the bottom floors be permitted to have flooring other then carpeting?.
I also agree with you on your premise that this person purchased their home and later decided to make an attempt to have the rules changed.
I heard a line this morning on the Fox News Station contributed to President Reagan.
Answering to a knock on the door:::: "Hello, I'm from the Government and I'm here to help you".

Jim
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:4733


10/10/2011 10:22 AM  
Thanks James...It is NOT that I don't believe that carpet fibers can't be a source of allergens or effect one's health. Matter of fact, I have just replaced my entire house central air venting system in part due to possible mold/allergen concerns myself. It's an old system never properly installed and a very nasty source of air supply. I've also replaced my flooring but with a very pet-friendly carpet/pad. So this isn't something I haven't been involved in first hand for the last few months... I have a 2 story older home...

My entire issue with is situation is that this "allergy" handicap/Fair housing laws doesn't hold water. It is clearly a tactic of a homeowner who wants to install wood flooring in their home. Guess what? Wood flooring may be MORE attractive to more homebuyers. Which means this owner when they go to sell will have a MORE attractive home to sell and offer it at a higher price than the other homes. It's all about comparing apples to apples and with this modification it would become an orange...

In order to prevent or control this from happening, I say change the CC&R's referencing this rule by ALL the membership. Don't allow a special allowance because of this person's made up threat. This is a made up empty threat grabbed onto by straws. Believe me, I ran a HOA successfully for several years. If I wasn't threatened to be sued every month, I knew I wasn't doing my job...How many lawsuits ever actually happened? NONE!!! This person just needs to follow the proper channels and present the idea as a change of the rules for the WHOLE membership to change the rule. NOT the exception...

By the way...If you sue your HOA, your suing yourself and your neighbors...So whatever action this person did do, would effect them and everyone in the HOA. So why not just stop and redirect the issue back to the HOA to look into updating their documentation? A HOA is to be governed by it's people for it's people, and if the people want laminate flooring then by golly VOTE for it!!!

Former HOA President
BruceF1
(Connecticut)

Posts:2437


10/10/2011 11:35 AM  
Melissa,

Regrettably, I still must disagree with you. If you could refer to or quote some credible, independently verifiable source, such as an article or government publication, to support your claim, I would be more than willing to review it to see if I can understand why you believe the way you do. Without that, I can only regard your statements as an opinion, and not based on any verifiable fact. Until then, I must base my understanding on the documents I have previously posted.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:4733


10/10/2011 12:46 PM  
Sorry, I don't do internet searches for internet information....I don't believe much I see on the net. Show me how the Fair Housing act or ADA can be enforced onto a club? A HOA does NOT provide housing to anyone. A HOA is NOT a tangible item. It is an ASSOCIATION of owners with a vested interested in maintaining property values.

If the HOA owns a clubhouse or other such building/facility, then that has to be compliant to the laws. However, an individual member's home, doesn't. It is NOT owned by the HOA but it's individual member. How hard is that to understand? Seriously? It is NOT a federal case. My home is NOT a federal case and I don't have to install a wheelchair ramp or handrails because someone with a handicap may come to visit. Same with flooring because I may have allergies. If the rules that my home is managed by says "No laminated flooring" it is NO laminate flooring unless I address the ENTIRE HOA and request that rule be changed.

Besides, this doesn't seem like "fair housing" if this request is granted. Not very fair if I want laminate flooring because I like it whiile someone else gets it for other reasons. IT IS NOT A FEDERAL CASE PERIOD...STOP MAKING IT ONE!!!

Former HOA President
FredS7
(Arizona)

Posts:529


10/10/2011 4:25 PM  
> IT IS NOT A FEDERAL CASE

Unless you are a lawyer (and maybe not even then) your opinion is not definitive.

The HOA would be well advised to proceed carefully and deliberately. ASK your lawyer for an opinion about whether any federal rules apply. FIND OUT what the HOA is allowed to ask. ASK for the information. CONSIDER it. Don't hurry anything. Approve subject to a noise test. Or approve subject to specific installation requirements. Go up to, and not beyond, what the law requires (according to your legal advice.

Remember that if you get noise complaints from the downstairs resident, the HOA may be obliged to enforce, and then it's not gonna be pretty.
JeffR7
(California)

Posts:251


10/10/2011 7:21 PM  
Posted By MelissaP1 on 10/10/2011 12:46 PM
Sorry, I don't do internet searches for internet information....I don't believe much I see on the net.




Unfortunately someone will read your prior posts and might believe them. I wonder if you don't believe anything you see on the net at all. Apparently you don't even believe multiple documents/links provided here that clearly state that HOAs are govern by the Fair Housing Act. One of those documents is actually issued by the Department of Housing, but that doesn't matter to you.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:8795


10/10/2011 10:56 PM  
Here are some articles about ADA, FHA and HOAs people might find interesting:

2011 article titled: FHA Confirms that ADA Rules Regarding Service Animals Do Not Apply to FHA/Condos and HOAs


2006 Article tiled How The Fair Housing Act Applies To Your Association from a CO law firm


Feb 2011 memo from HUD about emotional support animals and defining service animal Read the section about applying the law.


THE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION LAW LUNCH & LEARN LECTURE SERIES Discusses how the ADA might not apply but a State or Federal Fair Housing Act might.


BruceF1
(Connecticut)

Posts:2437


10/11/2011 4:27 AM  
Posted By TimB4 on 10/10/2011 10:56 PM
Here are some articles about ADA, FHA and HOAs people might find interesting:

Tim,

Thanks for posting these. Interesting. I saved a couple to my library.

It's interesting to note how one federal law applies, but another doesn't. It makes you wonder if the responsible agencies are part of the same government.
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1052


10/12/2011 7:16 AM  
I think the HOA should attempt to work with the property owner, citing noise and the right to "quiet enjoyment" by downstairs neighbors, as a reason to include soundproofing in the installation. This isn't a "yes" or "no" issue unless one side won't bend on what's a very common, modern and sensible request.

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