Group homes in HOA communities have seen a surge in popularity in recent years. And homeowners associations from across the country are scrambling to learn how to deal with them.
How to Handle Group Homes in HOA Communities
As a member of an HOA board, you naturally want the best for your community. That includes regulating group homes where possible. Group homes in residential neighborhoods are not uncommon nowadays. A lot of homeowners associations are encountering them on the regular, and many homeowners are complaining about them in the process.
Your HOA board may want to kick these group homes to the curb for disrupting the peace. But before you make a hasty decision about group homes in HOA communities, you must first understand what the law says about them.
Does the law allow group homes in HOA communities? What can your HOA board do to remove group homes in your community? Let’s find out.
Types of Group Homes in HOA Community
A group home is a residence designed specifically for the medical care or rehabilitation of a group of people. These people have complex needs and require special attention. While there are several types of group homes, HOA communities usually encounter one or two of the most common ones.
1. Group Home for Seniors
The number of senior citizens in the United States exponentially grows with each passing year. In fact, the United States Census Bureau projects that, by the year 2034, there will be 77 million people aged 65 and older, outnumbering people aged 18 and under by half a million.
Given this upward trend, it comes as no surprise that more and more group homes are popping up for seniors. Some group homes even accommodate seniors with special needs or illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.
2. Group Home for Adults With Special Needs or Disabilities
This is another type of group home found in HOA communities. Adults with special needs or disabilities, such as autism, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, or long-term psychiatric disorders, live together in these homes either permanently or temporarily. Some move on, with the residence acting as a transitional home to prepare the person to live independently. Others, however, live in these group homes their entire lives.
3. Rehabilitation Home
You may also encounter a rehabilitation home or halfway house in HOA communities. These homes house those recovering from addiction (drugs, alcohol, etc.) and sometimes even people with criminal backgrounds trying to re-integrate into society. Understandably, this type of group home sparks the most concern among HOA boards and residents.
Common Problems of Group Homes in Neighborhoods
Homeowners living in HOA communities will naturally express some concerns about group homes in the neighborhood. A leading concern, of course, has to do with safety, particularly if the group home in your community houses former criminals or addicts.
There is a tendency for these people to regress or exhibit risky behavior. Even if they are perfectly well-adjusted and rehabilitated, residents will still worry about their own safety as well as their children’s safety on a daily basis.
Traffic and parking are other problems that come with group homes in HOA communities. Group homes typically house around six or more people. Commonly, these are adults with their own vehicles (provided they are allowed to drive).
As opposed to a family home with one or two cars, group homes may bring six or more cars. That will naturally create an issue with traffic within the community. Furthermore, if the home can’t accommodate all six vehicles, they will need to park elsewhere in the neighborhood. That can also give rise to parking problems.
How to Get a Group Home Out of Your Neighborhood
If you live in a neighborhood with a group home or two, it is normal for you to want to remove them from the community due to growing concerns. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Denying these homes may bring about some legal consequences for your association.
1. Check the Law (Fair Housing Act and State Laws)
Certain federal and state laws protect group homes in HOA communities. For instance, the Fair Housing Act prevents associations from discriminating against tenants or residents. This includes the elderly and persons with disabilities.
According to the law, HOAs can’t prohibit disabled persons from using a property based on any mental or physical impairment. Covenants or rules stating otherwise are deemed unenforceable.
Furthermore, according to federal courts, “impairment” also covers alcoholism and drug addiction. That means associations do not possess the power to ban group homes catering to such individuals as well.
While you have no right to ban these types of homes, that does not mean such residents are not bound by HOA rules. The people living in group homes must still abide by the association’s governing documents.
That means they must follow the covenants and rules that every other homeowner follows. The HOA can also fine them or take away their privileges (depending on the governing documents) should they violate the rules.
You can also create resolutions governing how your association can regulate group homes. Keep in mind, though, that your group home rules should not come into conflict with federal, state, or local laws. It is best to consult your HOA attorney when drafting new policies.
2. No Commercial Use
Not all states have laws protecting group homes. In states without such laws, your association should turn to its governing documents. Most CC&Rs prohibit commercial or business use of properties within the community. Group homes generally fall under commercial use of a property, even if it is not-for-profit. Check your declarations to see if your association allows for commercial property use. It would also be wise to get legal advice about the situation.
The Bottom Line
When it comes down to it, an HOA board typically does not have the power to ban group homes in HOA communities. What you can do is to check your state laws and governing documents to see what powers you do have. Just make sure to call up your HOA attorney to prevent the possible risk of liability.
If your association needs help dealing with group homes in HOA neighborhoods, an HOA management company like Cedar Management Group can be of service. Give us a call anytime.
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