By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
A lawsuit filed against the McNary Estates Homeowners Association (HOA) citing violation of state and federal fair housing laws has escalated to a new level.
The HOA refused to provide accommodations for a family with a disabled daughter in 2015 and it eventually ended with the family selling their home and moving away after almost a decade of ownership.
The woman, Khrizma Kuhn, and her parents, Renee and Gary, filed a lawsuit against several parties in relation to disagreements in January 2015. Now lawyers for the Kuhn family are asking for a partial summary judgement on the facts of the case.
“We feel the law is crystal clear in this case and we’re asking a judge to make a determination that the law was violated,” said Kuhn attorney Dennis Steinman.
In April 2015, the Kuhn family requested a waiver from the HOA to park an RV in their driveway. Doing so without a waiver violated McNary Estates HOA rules. Khrizma, 34, suffers from Down syndrome, autism and other maladies that require access to a bathroom and a shower even on short trips. The Kuhns presented the HOA board with letters from two doctors citing the medical necessity, but the request was denied and the family later met with hostility from neighbors.
When one neighbor claimed her view of the street was obstructed as she tried to pull out of her driveway, Renee purchased a parabolic mirror for her to install at the edge of her property. The neighbor declined to use it.
Another neighbor shoved Gary twice outside his home as the situation unraveled. Yet another began sitting outside her home monitoring the family’s activity.
“She had a chair and a notepad and did it for days,” Gary said in an interview earlier this year. “She was trying to log our behavior.”
The HOA did suggest alternatives such as parking the RV offsite or a van with a chemical toilet, but neither fully addressed the situation. The van would have lacked a shower. Parking it offsite would have left Renee without transportation as the Kuhns had to sell one of their vehicles to pay for the RV. Gary used the family’s other car for commuting to and from work.
The summary judgement request was filed in district court in Eugene. Teresa Girod, the president of the HOA, is also listed as an individual defendant.
Should a judge rule in favor of the Kuhn family, a jury could be assembled to determine damages, but Steinman said most cases are settled after summary judgements are issued.
Fair housing laws require that reasonable accommodations be made for those with disabilities to “use and enjoy their dwelling.” Steinman said lawyers for the McNary Estates HOA are basing their argument on a case out of Arizona state court which found that an owner could have made modifications to his garage to house an RV.
Because the Kuhns lived in a condominium and had a garage that shared a wall with their neighbor, there was no way to make changes to accommodate the RV, Steinman said.
“The Ninth Circuit Court and others have unanimously said that parking near where you live is essential to use and enjoyment of a dwelling,” Steinman said. “The issue here is that we feel the established law has been rock-solid in allowing these types of accommodation.”
The previous lawsuit had also listed the The Fountains at McNary, McNary Estates, the Phase 8 HOA and Richard LeDoux as defendants. The Kuhns settled with those defendants in mediation.
Steinman was not able to discuss mediation matters in the continuing case, but shed light on the ones already settled. At issue was the location of board meetings held in the homes of board members.
“There was a community space available that was wheelchair accessible, but they chose not to use it,” Steinman said.
Mediation resulted in all the Fountains and Phase 8 board members attending a fair housing training, review and adoption of reasonable accommodation procedures and monetary damages of $25,000.