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Gittleman v. Woodhaven Condominium Association, Inc.

972 F. Supp. 894 (D. N.J. 1997)

CONDOMINIUMS; DISCRIMINATION—A disabled unit owner is entitled to have his condominium association set aside an exclusive parking space from what is designated as a general common element.

A condominium association refused to grant an exclusive parking space to a handicapped unit owner because the Master Deed stated that parking spaces were to be non-exclusive common elements owned by all unit owners as tenants in common. As such, the condominium association claimed it was forbidden from taking any action that would diminish the proportionate undivided interest in the common elements held by each unit owner, and asserted that the only way to grant a particular parking space was by a two-thirds affirmative vote of unit owners. Such a vote was in fact taken but the handicapped unit owner did not receive the requisite number of votes. The unit owner then filed suit for relief under the Fair Housing Amendments Act which makes it unlawful to discriminate against any person in the provision of services or facilities in his or her dwelling because of that person’s handicap. Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, discrimination includes refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, or services when they may be necessary to afford a person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.

The U.S. District Court agreed that the parking spaces were non-exclusive and that two-thirds approval from the rest of the unit owners was required, yet maintained that the association was not powerless, and in fact was required by the Fair Housing Amendments Act, to grant an exclusive parking space. The Court held that the Master Deed and By-laws of the condominium gave power to the association to regulate use of the common elements. The Court then stated that any provisions of the Master Deed that violate the Fair Housing Amendments Act are unlawful and cannot be enforced, and that the association, as manager of the common elements, had an affirmative duty to ensure that the common elements were managed so as to comply with federal housing law. Accordingly, the Court held that the association was bound to regulate use of the common elements so as to comply with the Fair Housing Amendments Act and to avoid enforcing provisions of the Master Deed that have a discriminatory effect. Since application of the provision at issue would violate the Fair Housing Amendments Act, the Court refused to grant the association’s motion for summary judgment. The Court also cited case law and legislative history of the Fair Housing Amendments Act prohibiting discrimination based on the enforcement of private agreements, such as a master deed.


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