Shearn v. Victoriana Condominium Association

A-1327-10T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2011) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: November 23, 2011

CONDOMINIUMS; REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS — The duty to provide reasonable accommodations does not require one to do everything possible to accommodate a disabled person and where a condominium association is not unreasonable in denying a parking space while a unit owner is behind in paying maintenance fees, if it applies that rule regardless of whether a unit owner is disabled or not.

A condominium unit owner fell behind on his monthly maintenance payment obligations. As permitted by its bylaws, the condominium association then revoked his parking privileges. The association also revoked the parking privileges of twenty-two other unit owners. The unit owner later became disabled and asked for permission to resume parking in the condominium’s lot. He wrote a letter to the association’s managing agent and included a copy of a notice from the Social Security Administration that deemed him to be disabled. The association demanded a physician’s note, which the unit owner did not send until much later. In the interim, the association offered to reinstate the parking privileges if he agreed to pay the regular maintenance charge plus a portion of the arrears each month. The unit owner refused to do so. He then filed a housing discrimination complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which referred the matter to New Jersey’s Division of Civil Rights (DCR). The unit owner filed a complaint with the DCR alleging that the association denied his request for reasonable accommodation of his disability. The DCR found no probable cause for discrimination and the unit owner appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed.

In doing so, the Court noted that a court’s review of an administrative agency decision is limited. A court is limited to determining: (a) if the agency followed the law or violated express or implied legislative policies; (b) if the record contains substantial evidence supporting the agency’s findings; and (c) whether, in applying those policies to the facts, the agency reached a conclusion that was clearly erroneous and could not have been reasonably made based on evidence. In this case, the Court found no error.

In reaching its decision, the Court noted that the Law against Discrimination requires that all persons be afforded the opportunity to obtain all accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges without discrimination based on disability. However, the duty to provide reasonable accommodation does not require one to do everything possible to accommodate someone. Here, the Court found that the condominium association was not unreasonable in denying the parking space while the unit owner was behind in paying maintenance fees. The association had the right under its bylaws, rules, and regulations to revoke the parking space and did so for twenty-two other unit owners who also failed to pay their maintenance fees. Thus, the association did not single out this particular unit owner. The Court found that the association had to consider the rights and interests of the other unit owners, each of whom would be forced to pay a higher percentage of the common area costs to compensate for this particular unit owner’s failure to pay his share. The Court also noted that the association had attempted to make reasonable accommodations to restore the unit owner’s parking privileges. The association offered to restore his parking privileges if he agreed to pay his maintenance going forward, together with a portion of the arrears each month until he caught up. However, the unit owner refused to make those payments. Based on these circumstances, the Court found that the DCR was not unreasonable in finding no probable cause for discrimination.