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U.S. Co-Op Housing Issues Law Blog

Appeals court hears fair housing case

The Fair Housing Act provides many protections to Michigan residents. However, the act may not necessarily provide certain protections for members of the LGBT community. On Feb. 6, the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals listened to arguments in a case involving a 70-year-old woman who alleges that she was harassed due to her sexual orientation. The woman claims that Niles' Glen Saint Andrew Living Community in Illinois did nothing to protect her.

In addition to physical harassment, she alleges that she was the target of slurs and was spit on. The case was originally dismissed at a lower court level and 7th Circuit justices were divided as to whether the law required administrators to police tenant behavior. While one judge was skeptical that the law could be stretched that far, another believed that it could.

The Fair Housing Act turns 50

The Fair Housing Act was signed into law in 1968 by Lyndon Johnson. It is formally known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and it was signed roughly a week after Martin Luther King had been assassinated. At that time, many neighborhoods in Michigan and throughout the nation were in many cases segregated. Black Americans were largely restricted as to where they could live by covenants and discriminatory banking rules.

On Jan. 25, a ceremony was held to mark its 50th anniversary at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Speakers and others at the event called to expand the law as well as for efforts to make sure that it remains in place. Such calls are in response to an announcement from the Housing and Urban Development secretary that efforts to protect fair housing would be rolled back.

Disabled tenants and housing rights

Individuals with disabilities in Michigan and the rest of the nation have a federally protected right to apply for and reside in a rental no matter what type of impairment they may have. Property owners that deny disabled tenants housing by using a discriminatory housing practice are in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Fair Housing Amendments Act.

These two federal laws prohibit the discrimination against tenants or prospective tenants based on a disability they may have or on the disability an individual associated with them may have. The laws include protections for individuals with a physical or mental disability that significantly affect how well they are able to conduct major life activities and individuals that have a record of a disability. The laws also protect individuals who may be thought of by others as being disabled.

Condo association insists on documentation for service dog

The Fair Housing Act protects Michigan residents and all other Americans who are members of protected classes from discrimination when they are choosing a home. A recent situation involving a disabled condominium owner brings to light how the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act work together to protect disabled individuals.

The Florida woman owns a dog, named Maui, who originally provided her with emotional support. She eventually decided to train him to be a service animal to help her with her disabilities.

How to show a dog is a good citizen

Michigan residents may understand the challenges that come with having a dog in a co-op. Even if the dog is allowed to be there, it still has to fit in with other animals and humans. The process of deciding whether an animal is a good fit for a co-op may be largely subjective. However, this doesn't necessarily need to be the case.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has come up with a test that can help determine a dog's fitness in a co-op environment. This Canine Good Citizenship test requires a dog to walk on a leash without pulling, sit and stay on command and show a willingness to be handled by a vet. There are currently 75 certified instructors who conduct 2,500 tests annually. While there is no guarantee that a dog with such certification will be approved, it is a good first step.

City may have violated Fair Housing Act

Michigan residents may be aware that it is illegal to discriminate when renting or selling property. On Nov. 28, the Justice Department announced that it was suing the city of Springfield, Illinois, for violating the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit alleges that the city discriminated against people with disabilities in the way it treated group homes for those who are disabled. Specifically, the city allegedly tried to close a home that had three disabled residents.

The city claimed that the home violated a 600-foot spacing rule. However, that rule only applies if the home has five or more disabled people living in it. If it is found that Springfield has violated the Fair Housing Act, it could owe victims compensatory damages in addition to civil penalties.

Student with service dog sues university over ADA violations

Michigan readers may know that some people with disabilities use service animals to help them participate in daily activities. However, keeping a service animal at a living site can raise complications if it exacerbates a roommate's allergies. That is the question currently before a U.S. district court.

A sophomore sorority sister at The Ohio State University's Chi Omega house is suing the school's Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for forcing her to find alternative housing because another sister is allergic to her service dog. According to court documents, the plaintiff suffers from severe panic attacks that inhibit her ability to breathe. Her service dog, Cory, is trained to crawl onto her stomach during an attack, which relieves her symptoms. His presence also helps reduce the frequency of her attacks. However, another resident of the Chi Omega house complained that Cory exacerbates her allergies, asthma and Crohn's disease. To resolve the conflict, the school's ADA coordinator decided to let the sister who first signed the lease agreement stay in the house. That person was the sister with allergies.

Housing discrimination issues

When people begin looking for co-op housing in Michigan their top priority is finding a home that meets the needs of their family. Unfortunately, some of these seekers may encounter discrimination when they try to arrange a viewing or apply to join the community.

Federal and state anti-discrimination laws make it clear that it is illegal for a homeowner, landlord or co-op board to discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, nationality, disability and several other immutable characteristics. While there is some evidence that housing discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity has been on the decline, violations continue to occur.

College student wins in effort to keep service cat in dorm

Michigan residents who are disabled have protections under the federal Fair Housing Act. Under the law, landlords must offer reasonable accommodations to people who are disabled.

This act came into play when a disabled college student sued North Carolina State University in 2016 for discrimination. The student, who lives in student housing, sued after the university refused to allow her emotional support cat to stay in her dorm room. She recently reached a settlement with the university.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of co-ops?

Co-op housing is not for everyone, but it can offer several advantages over renting or private home ownership. Co-ops can be appealing alternatives to living in a house, condo, or apartment. For all their positive points, they can also have downsides.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether co-op housing is the right fit for your lifestyle and needs. When you are choosing whether to live in a housing cooperative, keep in mind these important points as you make your selection.

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