HUD: HOA tried to evict family for having too many kids
GIBSONTON - Kimberly Konash thought the town home complex of Kings Lake was perfect for her family. But a few months after they rented a home, her husband took their six children to the community pool. "There was a lady there and she didn't identify herself and she started counting the children," Konash said. "She said, 'Are these all your children?' He said yes, and she said, 'Well that's a problem.' " That awkward meeting was followed up by a letter from the homeowners association. The neighborhood restricts the number of occupants per home.Konash's home, with four bedrooms, allowed a maximum of six residents. The letter said the family had 30 days to get into compliance or face eviction. Konash filed a discrimination claim with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That was 2006. This week, HUD charged the homeowners association and its management company, Vanguard Management Group Inc., with discriminating against large families. Federal authorities say the neighborhood rule violates the U.S. Fair Housing Act. The act says it's against the law to discriminate against renters on the basis of age, sex, color, disability, religion, national origin or family status. In addition, authorities point out, Hillsborough County ordinances say a four-bedroom home can have up to 11 residents. Still, the homeowners association continues to enforce its policy of no more than six, the government said. No one with the association could be reached for comment. Marielle Westerman, attorney for Vanguard, said her client strives not to discriminate and is surprised to be included in this charge. Westerman said part of the problem is HUD's failure to investigate in a timely manner. "They took 2,072 days to issue their charge," Westerman said. "HUD's own rules say they have to investigate within 100 days of the complaint." Westerman said she thinks homeowners associations are not given clear guidance on what type of restrictions HUD allows. As for Vanguard, she said, it shouldn't be named in this complaint. "They didn't create or enforce this declaration," Westerman said. "It shouldn't be lumped in with the HOA in this case." Konash said she didn't know about the rule when her family decided to rent in the neighborhood. "I had never even seen the homeowner's association rules," she said. "The owner would have had that, but we wouldn't have had that as a tenant." The case will now go before a federal judge. If the judge agrees with HUD's discrimination charge, both the association and the management company could face fines of up to $16,000. Meantime, what's happened with the family is a story in itself. They moved out of the Gibsonton town homes and bought a home in another neighborhood. Konash divorced and has remarried. Some of the children have grown up and moved out but the rest are living elsewhere, Konash said, as the state investigates allegations of child abuse involving the man she's married to and another child. The family is fighting the allegations and working to regain custody. As for the HUD investigation, Konash welcomed the news that charges have finally been filed. She said she hopes the homeowners association changes its policy and that any other associations with similar policies will follow suit. "It's a reflection of how society views families," she said. "Big families aren't seen as a blessing any more. I see it as a blessing."
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