Feds allege bias against kids at Edina condo building

HUD says an Edina condominium complex violated the Fair Housing Act in attempting to ban children from living there.

The federal government has charged an Edina condo building that bills itself as a 55-plus residence with housing discrimination for refusing to allow children to live there.

Federal officials charge that the homeowners association and property managers of 7000 Sandell Condominiums violated the Fair Housing Act by trying to bar kids even though they had not met federal qualifications to be classified as housing for older people.

In recent years, only a few condo associations have been charged with this type of housing discrimination, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spokeswoman said. The case will be heard by an administrative law judge in Chicago.

The president of Sandell's homeowners association did not return a Star Tribune phone call seeking comment. A spokesman for property manager New Concepts Management Group of St. Louis Park said it contests HUD's allegations.

"New Concepts disagrees with HUD's views on this matter and looks forward to resolving the issue," the spokesman said.

According to HUD's charging document, the unnamed complainant bought one of the 18 units at Sandell in 2009. He was 57 at the time and he and his wife had two children under 18.

Although he knew the building barred children from living in the building for more than 30 days a year, he believed it did not affect his family because condo rules said "eligible owners" included "any person 55 years or older, and the spouse, relative or companion of such person, regardless of the age. ..."

In 2010, the children enrolled in schools near the condo and began to "regularly occupy" the property. In 2011, members of the association board expressed concerns about the children living there. That April, the board sent a letter saying the condo owner would be fined $50 a day if the children did not leave by mid-May.

In August 2011, the association took the family to court in an effort to stop the children from living in the building. As of September of this year, the family had been billed for $8,290 in fines and legal fees.

HUD alleges that Sandell never published or adhered to required policies to be a building for people age 55 and up. Buyers were not asked to prove their age when they purchased units, the complaint says, and the building did not regularly verify the ages of people to make sure that at least 80 percent of the units had one individual age 55 or older.

The complaint also says the association did not amend its rules to add age verification procedures until the dispute with the family had already arisen, and at the same time changed association policy to make it clear occupants could not be under 18. HUD says signs identifying the complex as a 55-plus building weren't posted until 2011.

If the administrative law judge finds that Sandell discriminated, damages, fines and payment of attorney's fees could be ordered against the defendants.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan

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