While constitutional free-speech rights can be applied to homeowners associations in only a small minority of jurisdictions (and there only under limited circumstances), many states and the United States Congress have decided that some forms of speech are too important to leave completely between homeowners’ associations and their members. With that in mind, numerous laws specifically restricting the authority of associations to impede certain forms of expression - most notably political speech and patriotic displays – have been enacted throughout the country.
Zoning ordinances and HOA covenants often disallow commercial uses of properties in residential areas. A group home that accepts payments for services provided at the home is almost certainly engaging in commercial activity. But, although the plain language of an ordinance or covenant might appear to prohibit such a group home, federal law forbids state and local governments or HOAs from impeding certain protected uses (more on that later). Importantly, there are different categories of group homes, and the laws protecting each home depend in large part on what kind of home is involved.
Given the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, it is only right that the Congress passed a law in 2003 to assist military members with collections and foreclosure issues. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), all creditors have limitations on debt collections against active duty military members. These limitations include the temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions that may affect the civil rights of military members during their service. This article will examine in detail the protections afforded by the law to military members who own properties within homeowners' associations.
Congress initially effectuated the Fair Housing Act (FHA)—codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619—in 1968 to prevent discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion or national origin. By 1988, the FHA had been expanded to protect classes to include sex, disability, and familial status. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in concert with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), brings actions against housing providers that violate the statute.
Although a Homeowners Association has the authority to rule a community in accordance with its governing documents, its scope of authority is limited under federal and state laws. For instance, an Association cannot adopt, or enforce a rule that prohibits owners from displaying the United States flag on their property, because the owners have the right to do so, under the law.
All condominium, cooperative, and homeowner associations ("Association") are subject to basic rules of due process under the law. Although the Association has a fiduciary duty to enact and enforce rules to promote health, happiness, and peace of mind of owners, the Association through its body of authority, must act in good faith and offer owners fair procedures...