Widow vs. HOA dispute gets HUD's attention - East Valley Tribune: News

Widow vs. HOA dispute gets HUD's attention

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Posted: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 8:46 pm | Updated: 3:01 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Federal housing authorities have become involved with the case of an 87-year-old Mesa woman whose homeowners association told her she can't have a grandson live with her as a caregiver because of the community's age restrictions.

Mesa widow vs. HOA over caregiver grandson | HOA should accept grandson as caregiver

Federal housing authorities have become involved with the case of an 87-year-old Mesa woman whose homeowners association told her she can't have a grandson live with her as a caregiver because of the community's age restrictions.

Mesa widow vs. HOA over caregiver grandson

HOA should accept grandson as caregiver

After seeing a recent Tribune story about Virginia Campbell's dispute with Sunland Village, an official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development contacted her family to get more details about potential housing law violations.

At issue is whether Campbell's 37-year-old grandson qualifies as a caregiver and can live in a community that requires one occupant of each home to be at least 55, though children 18 and older can reside in a home with a parent.

Sunland Village, a community of more than 2,685 homes, has said it would consider letting Greg Campbell stay - but only if it can learn more about Virginia Campbell's health and then determine if her grandson is qualified to help with specific conditions. Virginia Campbell has provided a doctor's letter saying she needs her grandson to live with her, but the homeowners association says that's not enough.

HUD does not comment on specific cases or acknowledge whether it is involved, but HUD regional director Chuck Hauptman on Tuesday did say Campbell's story got the agency's attention.

Generally speaking, Hauptman said the Fair Housing Act requires exceptions to age restrictions for live-in assistance.

"They can ask for documentation to determine you need a caregiver, but they're not entitled to ask about specifics," Hauptman said. "That's about all they're entitled to know."

That seems ludicrous to some residents at Sunland, where about 200 people gathered at a forum Tuesday to discuss age restrictions. One resident said if a doctor's note was all that's required, just about everybody in the 55-plus community could get an exception.

Residents squared off on the intricacies of Campbell's case, though most who spoke supported her and said the community needs to be more flexible. Some residents were angry and emotional about how the board of directors and the community attorney handled the Campbell family.

Campbell attended but seemed to go unnoticed until she walked out midway through the meeting. She was tearful.

"I think it's eating at her inside," said Chuck Campbell, a son of Virginia who lives in Iowa but recently bought the house.

Some neighbors have supported the widow and Sunland resident of 28 years, Chuck Campbell said, while others have scolded her. Campbell walks, drives a golf cart and tries to stay active, but she has said she is weak and needs somebody at her side to help with daily activities and to keep an eye on her.

The president of Sunland's board of directors said most residents agree the community should alter its rules though there's no clear consensus on specifics yet. David Groth said he expects more cases like this as homeowners turn over their properties to their children, need a caregiver or ask a relative to move in for financial reasons. The recession has only made the problem more complicated, Groth said, because homeowners have taken in adult grandchildren who've been left jobless and have no other housing options.

"I think we're going to be getting more and more into these kinds of issues," Groth told homeowners.

The community has a committee that's expected to recommend changes to Sunland's governing documents, he said. Sunland's board has quietly handled about 15 cases dealing with underage residents, but Groth said this is the first to get media coverage.

Any potential fair housing violations would be handled by the Arizona Attorney General's Office, which could take legal action or simply try to resolve the issue through mediation.

The office usually starts with mediation to avoid high legal costs for all involved, and both parties are usually satisfied after, said Anne Titus Hilby, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.

The office cannot say whether it's handling a specific issue because civil rights complaints are confidential.

Age-restricted communities often mishandle age-restriction issues, Hauptman said.

"They're not very knowledgeable, generally," Hauptman said. "In a lot of cases, nobody has had any training and they're unfamiliar with fair housing laws."

HUD tries to promote seminars on those laws for management companies and owners who are officers in their HOAs. After just a couple of hours, those who attend usually understand the law and can help their communities avoid battles that are usually easy to avoid, he said.

"Sometimes by the time we get involved, the HOA has racked up attorney fees and they're trying to pass that on to the residents and people have their positions set," Hauptman said. "It's really harder at that point to resolve the situation because you've got bad blood brewing."

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