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HOA accused of implementing racist rental policy

Residential communities in California and around the country often have strict rules that prevent residents from renting out their properties, but the legality of these policies may be challenged when their enforcement would result in discrimination based on race or national origin. A case currently working its way through the Florida court system deals with just these issues. In a lawsuit filed on Oct. 16, three property owners claim that their homeowners association instituted a rental ban primarily to force out black families.

According to the plaintiffs, the homeowners association involved circulated a petition to ban rentals ostensibly to protect property values in the Volusia County development. However, the lawsuit alleges that a more sinister motive was behind the petition as all of the rental units in the development were leased to black families. The property owners behind the litigation say the HOA's reasons for banning rentals are reminiscent of the rhetoric used in years past to keep African-Americans out of affluent neighborhoods.

The plaintiffs also question the HOA's claims that rental tenants are poor neighbors who allow properties to fall into disrepair, and they point out that the rental units involved are clean, presentable and well-maintained. They also say that their tenants are gainfully employed, do not cause any trouble and are liked by their neighbors.

Resolving homeowner disputes can be difficult when new rules forbid practices that have been permitted for years, and this is especially true when renting is banned and individuals face the prospect of losing their livelihoods. In such situations, attorneys with experience in this area may search for an amicable resolution at the negotiating table to avoid costly litigation. When these efforts are unsuccessful, attorneys might suggest an alternative venue such as mediation.

Source: The West Volusia Beacon, Landlords sue over rental ban, Eli Witek, Oct. 17, 2018

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