On July 8, 2009, a class made up of owners and residents of Ryderwood, an area of Cowlitz County, Washington filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court of Western Washington against Ryderwood Improvement and Service Association, Inc. (RISA), alleging that RISA violated the Federal Fair Housing ...
read more >
On July 8, 2009, a class made up of owners and residents of Ryderwood, an area of Cowlitz County, Washington filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court of Western Washington against Ryderwood Improvement and Service Association, Inc. (RISA), alleging that RISA violated the Federal Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. The FHA prohibits discrimination based on "familial status," which refers to families having one or more persons who have not attained the age of 18 years. Ryderwood consists of approximately 270 single family homes that here devised by deeds and subject to identical covenants and restrictions. RISA's rules required that the owner or purchaser must be "a bona-fide recipient of an annuity or a pension;" that such person "must not be less than fifty-five years of age"; and that there must be "no additional, permanent occupants of the home (other than the spouse) who do not meet the above requirements." The plaintiffs claimed that RISA's rules violated the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) by limiting sales to persons who are 55 years of age or older and have no family members less than 18 years old.
An exemption exists for the compliance with certain aspects of the Fair Housing Act based on the Housing for Older Persons Amendment ("HOPA"), as stated in 42 U.S.C. § 3607. In order for a 55 and older community to qualify for the HOPA exemption, it must adopt, publish, and adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate the intent required under HOPA. Once a housing facility or community adopts rules and regulations consistent with HOPA, the facility or community must regularly audit its members to insure it is complying with the age requirement.
Plaintiffs sought relief for violations of the FHA, for fraudulent concealment by RISA in failing to disclose that RISA was not HOPA compliant, and for violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act in misleading a large portion of the consuming public about the legality of its occupancy restrictions. Plaintiffs also sought declaratory and injunctive relief ordering RISA to rescind its occupancy restrictions.
On November 11, 2009, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that no longer included the fraudulent concealment or Washington Consumer Protection Act charges.
On June 4, 2010, the Western District of Washington denied RISA's motion for partial summary judgment and granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment. The Court held that RISA was not entitled to the HOPA exception because it had not shown compliance with the regulations governing the HOPA. The court also granted the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction, ordering RISA to cease enforcement of the age restrictions.
On January 14, 2011, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs. The court found that RISA had been HOPA compliant since 2007. However, this compliance did not shield the community from liability for discrimination occurring before compliance was achieved. The court remanded to the district court to determine whether RISA's 2007 survey satisfied the HOPA statutory and regulatory criteria.David Priddy - 06/16/2011