There was an interesting settlement recently between the United States Justice Department and the Stonecleave Village Association in Methuen, Massachusetts. Among other things, the Justice Department found that the Association violated the Fair Housing Act and discriminated against families with children by fining them excessively ($500) when their children played games such as wiffle ball on common areas in violation of the condominium rules. Other residents without children had received fines of $10 for similar violations. The Association also allegedly retaliated against a mother who filed a complaint by charging her $1000 to pay for the Association's legal fees related to the complaint. (The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.)
The Association agreed to pay $130,000 to the families and $20,000 in civil penalties. In it's press release, the Justice Department emphasized its belief that it is wrong to force families to pay so their children can play. But, frankly, I'm interested in seeing how this settlement impacts condominium rules, if at all. The way I read the settlement and understand the law, condominium associations can prohibit specified activity on common areas, as long as that prohibition is applied uniformly and without discrimination. Perhaps an attorney who specializes in this area of the law will weigh in and clarify this issue for us. For more information about the laws related to condominium associations, visit our Massachusetts Real Estate Law Discussion Forum.