Alabama REALTORS® Judicial Monitor
June 11, 2019
The Public Policy Team monitors Alabama’s courts for impacts on the real estate industry and property laws in general. When noteworthy events occur, or important opinions are released, summaries and analysis of the cases will be provided as the Alabama REALTORS® Judicial Monitor.
For the fifth edition of the Judicial Monitor, we review four items – 1) a decision by a federal circuit court applying the Americans with Disabilities Act to a company’s website, 2) a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding eminent domain, 3) a decision by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals on the obligation of homeowners in a planned community to pay homeowners association dues, and 4) a decision by another federal circuit court holding a landlord liable under the Fair Housing Act for failure to address a tenant’s harassment claims.
I. Federal Court of Appeals Finds Domino’s Pizza May be in Violation of ADA for Operating Website Inaccessible to Blind Persons
- Federal courts are grappling with whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses that have “public accommodations” to make their websites accessible to blind individuals.
- While there is no uniform standard on what makes a website “accessible,” some federal courts have ruled that the ADA requires a website to work with electronic reading software for the blind.
II. U.S. Supreme Court Considers Whether Fifth Amendment Takings Claims Can be Brought Directly in a Federal Court
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether a claim that a local or state government has used eminent domain improperly can be brought directly in federal court, rather than having to go through state court first. Federal courts are thought to be less subject to political pressure as judges are appointed for lifetime tenure.
III. Alabama Court of Civil Appeals Holds That Homeowners in Private Community Have Obligation to Pay “Proportionate” HOA Fees
Homeowners living in a residential community may be required to pay homeowner’s association/club dues for all property owned in the community by virtue of their residence in the community.
IV. Federal Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Fair Housing Act Claims Against Landlord for Failure to Address Discriminatory Harassment Against Tenant by Other Tenants
Landlords may be liable under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) if they fail to address the harassment of tenants by other tenants or staff on the premises if the harassment is based on the victim’s membership in a protected class.
[i]913 F.3d 898, 902 (9thCir. 2019).
[ii]42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189.
[iii]See42 U.S.C. § 12182(a).
[iv]Robles v. Domino’s Pizza LLC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53133, *17 (C. D. Ca. 2017).
[v]Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 257 F. Supp. 3d 1340 (S.D. FL. 2017).
[vi]Judge Reeves is a Federal District Judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky, sitting on this case by a special designation rule.
[vii]473 U.S. 172 (1985).
[viii]LEXIS 8, *1, 2019 WL 167739 (Ala. Civ. App. 2019).
[x]Id., at *2.
[xi]Judge Craig Pittman authored the opinion. The court’s decision was issued prior to Judge Christy Edwards being sworn in to replace Judge Pittman, who did not seek re-election in 2018.
[xii]Id., at *8.
[xiii]Id., at *7.
[xiv]Id., at *10.
[xv]Id., at *11-12(“(T)he articles of incorporation include the lot owners as ‘members’ of the Yacht Club because the lot owners are undisputedly among ‘the record owners of [l]ots and [c]ondominiums’ in the Community as it was originally platted. The lot owners have the express obligation, incident to their membership in the Yacht Clubto remit payment within 30 days of receiving a statement detailing the ‘proportionate’ assessed share of common expenses.” The court cited Kaanapali Hillside Homeowners' Ass'n v. Doran, a decision by the Hawaii Court of Appeals, to support this proposition.Id., at *12. (citing112 Haw. 356, 362 (Haw. Ct. App. 2006), which held that “there exists ‘an implied obligation of a homeowner in a residential development to pay assessments to a homeowner’s association whose services benefit the development,’” in turn citing caselaw from New York, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi)). Publicly available information about the Alabama community also states that owning in the neighborhood includes membership in the club. SeeAmber Sutton, “What you get for around $600,000 in Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Huntsville,” Al.com, February 15, 2016, available here.
[xvi]901 F.3d 856, 859 (7th Cir. 2018).
[xvii]Id., at 860-861.
[xviii]42 U.S.C. § 3604(b).
[xix]See42 U.S.C. § 3617.
[xx]Wetzel., at 861.
[xxi]Id., at 862.
[xxiii]Id., at 863.
[xxiv](42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e et seq.).
[xxv](20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1688).
[xxvi]SeeWetzel, at 862-864.
[xxvii]SeeId., 863-864 (discussing Davis, 526 U.S. 629 (1999) (Opinion of O’Connor, J.)).
[xxviii]526 U.S. 629, 633.
[xxix]Wetzel, at 865.
[xxx]Id.The court also mentioned that the “mere reminder that eviction (along with liability for attorneys' fees) was a possibility might have deterred some of the bad behavior.” Id.
[xxxi]Wetzel, at 865(citing the Restatement (Second) of Prop.: Land. & Ten. § 6.1).
[xxxii]Id. (citing § 6.1 cmt. d.).
[xxxiii]Francis v. Kings Park Manor, Inc.(2d Cir. 2019).