CREEC filed a new case in the District of Colorado that underscores the importance of reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act.
When Hannah and Chris Lofland were looking for a home in Larkspur, Colorado, they never imagined that their neighbors would attempt to deny their son the accommodations he needs. William Lofland is, according to his doctor, “on the severe end of the autism spectrum.” He and his parents need quick access to a specially-equipped recreational vehicle to help calm him when he melts down. The RV includes required medical equipment and the ride — over the rolling hills of the Front Range — provides William with the necessary sensory stimulation to calm him. Having it parked next to their home helps prevent self-injury and avoids trips to the emergency room. The Loflands also need to construct a six-foot-high fence to ensure that William does not stray from their home.
The Loflands’ new home was subject to covenants, enforced by an “Architectural Control Committee,” that prohibited parking RVs on residents’ property and subjected the construction of fences to review by the ACC. Despite the Loflands’ repeated requests — complete with letters from William’s doctor and photographs of the RV and fence — the ACC refused to approve the requested accommodations.
The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1964 to address widespread racial discrimination in housing. It was amended in 1988 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and, as part of this amendment, to require reasonable accommodations in rules and policies where necessary to permit a person with a disability to use and enjoy his home. Congress made clear that
The [Fair Housing] Act is intended to prohibit the application of special requirements through land-use regulations, restrictive covenants, and conditional or special use permits that have the effect of limiting the ability of [individuals with disabilities] to live in the residence of their choice in the community.
It was thus especially distressing when the ACC asked why the the Loflands didn’t buy a house in some other neighborhood that permitted RVs. It is precisely the purpose of the Fair Housing Act to permit people to live in the home and neighborhood of their choice, even when reasonable accommodations might be necessary to rules or covenants.
The Loflands have brought suit to ensure that they can live in their new home in peace with the accommodations William needs, to ensure that the ACC does not do this to other residents, and to enforce the all-important principle of freedom of choice in housing without discrimination on the basis of disability.
You can read a copy of the complaint here. The case got some press coverage last year while the Loflands were still hoping the ACC would agree to the accommodations without the need for litigation:
CREEC was privileged to work with the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center in investigating this case.