Rules v. Laws Can Condo Contracts Trump Legal Rights?

 In buying into a condominium community and its lifestyle, the prospective owner  signs a contract, agreeing to accept and uphold the community’s rules and regulations—and essentially waiving certain rights.  

 In doing so, this buyer may feel that he or she is entering an exclusive world  that can dictate—by contractual consent—a particular [and desirable] living environment. In much the way a country club  or even a neighborhood social club is considered private, and its members free  to include or exclude whomever they want, a condominium community is also a  private enclave—or is it?  

 Residential community unit owners enter into contracts that are private  agreements, made strictly between consenting parties, but legal experts will  point out that “housing” is the main difference between condominium associations and other, private  organizations or clubs. As such, the federal or state Fair Housing Act and  related statutes regarding discrimination are routinely applied, and can  override regulations in condo docs.  

 For instance, the freedom of speech guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution does not  apply in many condominium communities. This is because while the constitution  prohibits government at all levels—local, state and federal—from impinging on the First Amendment rights of citizens, a community  association is not a governmental entity, so its rules are not subject to the  same strict constitutional tests.  

 But a court may decide otherwise. In a recent case, a condo board banned a unit  owner from placing a political sign inside his window. The owner brought suit,  and the state Supreme Court in New Jersey agreed with the plaintiff, concluding  that his right to free speech—specifically, political free speech—trumped the property rights of the community association.  

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Comments

  • This article is perfect. There is little information to find online regarding this issue. I ended up filing a federal complaint on my HOA because they ignored my reasonable accommodation request. They didn’t want to talk to me at all. Next step is lawsuit.