The federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in Mehta v. Beaconridge clarifies what actions constitute a violation of Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq. Mehta filed as a Pro Se. He appealed the District Court’s dismissal of his complaint as lacking substance.
Here are relevant excerpts:
The FHA grants homeowners a cause of action against homeowners’ associations for invidious discrimination or retaliation linked to the terms, conditions, or privileges accompanying their property.
Under the FHA, a homeowner may sue a homeowners’ association if the association engages in invidious discrimination when failing to provide maintenance services or when limiting the use of privileges, services, or facilities associated with the homeowner’s dwelling.
With regard to Mehta’s claim of retaliation, the FHA makes it unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of their fair housing rights.
After Mehta complained of this disparate treatment, the association placed his family’s account on delinquent status and barred them from using the subdivision’s pool, club house, and tennis court. The association then performed uncalled-for work on their gate (switching the gate from swinging inward to outward) without providing them notice or obtaining their consent, and billed them for it. When Mehta’s family refused to pay, the association fined them and threatened to place a lien on their home. Apparently fed up with their complaints, one of its employees shouted at him, “you are not moved out yet, you Indian.”
Mehta sued under the Fair Housing Act, see 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(b), 3617.
Mehta alleged that, after he complained of disparate treatment, the association retaliated against his family by “not allowing [his] family to go to [the] pool” or to facilities such as the “clubhouse, pool, and tennis court.” He pleaded, as well, that the association maliciously designated their account as delinquent and then performed nonsense work on their fence, billed them for it, and later threatened to file a lien on their home. Mehta has, therefore, provided fair notice of his retaliation claim.
With regard to Mehta’s claims of discrimination, he alleged that the association doled out privileges and services to white homeowners, while withholding them from his family. He further alleged that the association failed to maintain their home’s aluminum siding, roof, sump pump, sidewalk and parking space, while providing those services to white homeowners; and the association engaged in preferential treatment when maintaining the grounds of the subdivision. And Mehta alleged that an association employee shouted at him in racial terms, “you are not moved out yet, you Indian.” These allegations suffice to state a plausible claim of discrimination.
In summary, the judgment of the district court is . . . VACATED with regard to the dismissal of the FHA and Illinois law claims of intentional discrimination and retaliation.
Mehta v. Beaconridge Improvement Assn, No. 11-1505 (7th Cir. July 28, 2011).
Please note that constitutional protections and statute protections exist on an issue by issue basis. That is, if the court did not reaffirm that homeowners in HOAs have this right, then the homeowner must seek legislation to restore that lost right, which is the basis of HOA reform legislation dealing with substantive issues (as opposed to HOA operational issues)