Archive for the ‘Fair Housing’ Category

New HUD Income Exclusion

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Written by Lois Churchill, Spectrum Enterprises

HUD published a notice in the Federal Register on 5/20/14. That notice was in regards to income exclusions for HUD programs. It added a new exclusion, re-inserted an inadvertent omission from the notice published on 12/14/12, and corrects two others.

The notice adds exclusion of any amounts in an “individual development account” as provided the the Assets for Independence Act, as amended in 2002 (Pub. L. 107-110, 42 U.S.C. 604 (h)(4))

It includes previously omitted exclusion of any allowance paid under the provisions of 38 U.S. C. 1833(c) to children of Vietnam veterans born with spina bifida (38 U.S.C. 1802-05), children of women Vietnam veterans born with certain birth defects (38 U.S.C 1811-16), and children of certain Korean service veterans born with spina bifida (38 U.S.C. 1821).

It clarifies the criteria for Section 8 participants for scholarships funded under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C 1070) including awards under federal work-study programs or under the Bureau of Indian Affairs student assistance programs (20 U.S.C. 1087uu).

It corrects the timeline of exclusion (xxiii) for settlements payments pursuant to the case entitled Elouise Cobell et al. v. Ken Salazar et al.

Individual Development Accounts: Per 42 U.S.C 604 (2)(A) and (B) –

(A) Establishment

Under a State program carried out under paragraph 91), an individual development account may be established by or on behalf of an individual eligible for assistance under the State Program operated under this part for the purpose of enabling the individual to accumulate funds for a qualified purpose described in subparagraph (B).

(B)  Qualified purpose

A qualified purpose described in this subparagraph is 1 or more of the following, as provided by the qualified entity providing assistance to the individual under this subsection:

(i) Postsecondary education expenses

Postsecondary education expenses paid from an individual development account directly to an eligible educational institution.

(ii) First home purchase

Qualified acquisition costs with respect to a qualified principal residence for a qualified first-time homebuyer, if paid from an individual development account directly to the persons to whom the amounts are due

(iii) Business capitalization

Amounts paid from an individual development account directly to a business capitalization account which is established in a federally insured financial institution and is restricted to use solely for qualified business capitalization expenses.

 (4) No reduction in benefits

Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law (other than the Internal Revenue Code of 1986) that requires consideration of 1 or more financial circumstances of an individual, for the purpose of determining eligibility to receive, or the amount of, any assistance or benefit authorized by such law to be provided to or for the benefit of such an individual, funds (including interest accruing) in an individual development account under this subsection shall be disregarded for such purpose with respect to any period during which such individual maintains or makes contributions into such an account.

To be honest, in all the years I’ve worked in affordable housing I have never seen one of these accounts. However they exist and HUD has added them to the list of excluded income. Should an applicant or a tenant tell you they have such an account you must verify that the funds are from a 42 U.S.C. 604 grant and if they meet the requirements of (2)(A) and (B) you will exclude both the account and the interest it earns from your income calculations.

HOME Rent Limits – re-visited

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Written by Lois Churchill, Spectrum Enterprises

A while back I posted a blog letting everyone know that the 2013 HOME rent limits had been published.  In that blog I made a few mistakes.  See the link here.

The blog says “While income limits for existing HOME properties are ‘held harmless’ rent limits were not supposed to be but have been – up until now.”

What I meant to say was that while income limits are not “held harmless” rent limits were supposed to be. Income limits were never meant to remain the same if there was a decrease but in 2010 HUD published in a Federal Register that rents for HOME projects would be. Well, that’s also not exactly true. Rather than me trying to explain it all, I will refer you to an article written by Luc Le and Thomas Stagg of Novogradic & Company. It does a good job. It can be found on their web site.

The bottom line is, if you want to know what your 2013 HOME rent limits are, go to the HUD web site and use what’s published there. For at least this year, you may not continue to use your 2012 rent limits if they have gone down. Again, this is very important if you have HOME and LIHTC because while your LIHTC rents may be held harmless you will still have to lower the rents if they exceed the new HOME maximum allowable rents.

Lions and Tigers and Bears – No, Just Service Animals

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Written by Wil Whalen, Spectrum Enterprises

As a property manager or owner, you most likely have some kind of a pet policy in place.  Whether you allow all pets and breeds, just small animals or even have a no pet policy in place, none of these restrictions apply to a resident with a service or emotional support animal.  There has been a lot of confusion as to what qualifies a service animal and the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal.  Recently the Department of Justice modified the rules defining the term “service animal.”  They define it as:

 “any dog or service horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.  Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained are not service animals for the purposes of this definition….”

So now you’re probably wondering why you even have to consider a request for permission for a tax credit tenant to maintain a cat, bird or other animal in their unit.  The Department of Justice explained an important distinction between a service animal for ADA purposes and a support animal for FHAA purposes.  The new rules limit service animals to dogs and service horses, but that doesn’t mean that a tax credit housing provider can disallow the use of other animals as a reasonable accommodation for someone who needs an emotional support animal.  Also, you cannot discriminate as to what type of animal you approve as an accommodation.  As long as the resident is disabled and qualifies for that accommodation, you have to allow the animal.  Also keep in mind that any kind of a service or emotional support animal must be prescribed by a doctor.  The doctor should be willing to testify in a court of law that the resident is disabled and does indeed need the service animal that was prescribed.

The animals, however, cannot pose a threat to the safety of any other tenant and must be house trained.  Also, the animal cannot be a significant nuisance to the other tenants, by barking too loud, growling at other tenants, being aggressive, etc. The animal must be allowed in all areas of the premises where persons are allowed to go and the tenant must be in control of the animal at all times and clean up after it if and when needed.  You cannot impose any limitations regarding breed, size or weight.  These animals cannot be subject to any fees/deposits that apply to regular pet owners.  You also cannot unreasonably delay a decision to grant the accommodation request. 

Keep in mind that there are cities and counties that may have breed restrictions.  In that case, you can disallow that animal and if the tenant wants to fight the decision, their battle would be with the city or county and not with you or your property.  Know what your city and county rules are, if any, regarding animal breeds, weight, etc.

In The News…Fair Housing & Service Animals

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Written by Erik Whitton, Spectrum Enterprises

Yesterday 2 articles found their way to my inbox worth sharing as a careful reminder of management policies and service animals.

http://www.cdapress.com/news/local_news/article_da870541-2784-5eb9-b8df-2729a96713d3.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/feds-sue-i-co-op-threatening-evict-couple-woman-comfort-dog-article-1.1022404?localLinksEnabled=false

In the first article, a federal jury awarded $21,000 in damages after an Idaho apartment community informed prospective residents that damage deposits were required for service animals. This was deemed a Fair Housing violation as discrimination against handicap applicants. Of note, the property did not actually charge anyone a damage deposit yet still lost the case and will be forced to pay $21,000.

In the 2nd article, a co-op community in New York threatened to evict an elderly couple stating the woman’s therapy animal violated the ‘no pet’ policy at the property. The tenant in question suffered from diabetes, mental illness, and loss of vision and hearing. Under pressure from the property owner, the couple gave up the dog while she was dying. After her death the husband filed a fair housing compliant which is now a federal case. It will be interesting to follow this case as it develops. If I here anything I will post an update.

Both cases reveal property staff unfamiliar with the distinction between a ‘pet’ and a service animal. We would urge anyone reading this to check your advertising, selection criteria, lease documents, and property rules for language about pet policies and make sure all staff understands a service animal is not a ‘pet.’

These are important reminders that the judicial system does not take lightly fair housing concerns. If a compliant is valid the prosecution will be tough and the penalties severe. Al employees must be trained in Fair Housing law – this includes anyone answering phones or working on the maintenance crew all the way up to the owner. Spectrum recently announced our 2012 training schedule which includes 4 Fair Housing seminars along with our Symposium which always addresses Fair Housing and usually includes a presentation from a HUD employee who prosecutes these cases. In addition, all of our c3p Tax Credit Compliance seminars spend time discussing Fair Housing law. Any client of Spectrum Enterprises can register for the courses at a discounted rate (please mention to this to our staff when signing up). Here is a link to the 2012 schedule:

http://www.spectrumseminars.com/register/

Spectrum Tax Credit Symposium

Friday, July 8th, 2011

November 16 – 18, 2011

Sheraton New York Hotel & Tower
811 7th Ave at 53rd St
New York, NY
Phone: (212) 581-1000

Cost: Early bird price: $600 until September 1st
$650 after September 1st

Group Discounts Available!

Why you should attend?

Join Spectrum and other leading experts for three days of laughter and learning at our annual Tax Credit Symposium at the Sheraton New York Hotel in New York City. This is an excellent opportunity to explore advanced topics in LIHTC compliance; hear what leaders in the industry have to say regarding hot-button housing issues; and engage with professionals who tackle compliance challenges head-on. Spectrum will present fresh informational sessions including content for managers and investor portfolios alike. Come join us for three days of expert content with leaders in the industry dealing every day with tax credit compliance issues.

Features and Special Events

Tradeshow with Vendors
Presidents Reception at Avenue Restaurant
City Bus Tour Welcome & Awards with Steve Rosenblatt, President Spectrum Seminars
Fair Housing Update with Bryan Greene, HUD Fair Housing
Mold 101 with Pat Tighe, President Mold Stoppers, Inc.
Bed Bugs 101 with Jonathan Boyar
Cocktails with Exhibitors
LIHTC Trivia Games
Ask the Experts with Steve Rosenblatt & AJ Johnson

Breakout Sessions

Companion Animals

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Written by Lois Churchill, Director of State Monitoring Operations

A companion animal, unlike an assistive animal, is one with no special training in helping an individual cope with a disability. However, it is considered necessary for a member of a tenant household to cope with a disability.

The key words here are “disability” and “necessary”.

The individual claiming to have a companion animal must meet the definition of disabled. Handicap and disability have been determined to have the same meaning under Fair Housing law.

According to Fair Housing law, “Handicap” means, with respect to a person, a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record of such and impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.

“Major life activities” means functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

If a tenant isn’t disabled, the animal is not a companion animal by law.

It is not required that a doctor be the one to verify a disability. This can be done by another professional or even a family member or close friend. However, the need for a companion animal must come from a doctor or other professional (e.g., psychologist). The form you send should ask if the animal is necessary to cope with the disability and what function it performs. It’s been medically proven that animals can lower blood pressure, help a depressed individual cope, etc. Again, is it required? If the doctor says a dog will encourage the individual to get out and exercise, it’s not serving the required purpose. Anyone can walk without a dog. Motivation is not related to a disability. Helping prevent loneliness is a good thing but anyone can be lonely. Loneliness by itself is not a disability, therefore the animal that is helping prevent the “condition” is not a companion animal by law.

An example I used to see in family housing was the doctor’s note saying that being able to keep the family animal will help little Johnny (or Jonnie) cope with the move. Well, if the child isn’t disabled the animal isn’t a companion animal by law.

Tenants are learning that “companion animals” are allowed in apartment complexes with a no pets rule and are taking advantage of the loose definition. Therefore it is important that your forms are strong and that you stick by them. It is not discrimination to say no to a non-disabled household requesting a companion animal. It is not discrimination to say no to a disabled tenant whose animal isn’t “required” to help him or her cope with their disability.

The form going to the doctor should clearly define “handicap” and ask if the tenant meets the definition. It should go on to ask how the animal in question aids in helping the tenant cope with the disability. If there is more than one animal, ask how each meets a different need. Then the form should have a check box saying “I agree if necessary to appear in a court of law to support these statements”.

While most doctors are willing to help out a patient by signing the disability statement this additional statement might make them think twice about it.


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