Minnetonka residents of a condo complex have won a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit contending that a ban on playing in the grass illegally discriminated against families with children.
The settlement agreement, announced Friday by U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, means that the Greenbrier Village Homeowners’ Association Inc. and Gassen Company Inc. must establish a new nondiscrimination policy and pay a $10,000 penalty to the federal government and $100,000 to six families.
“Housing discrimination has no place in Minnesota,” Luger said in a statement. “This case reaffirms the long-held principle of our civil rights laws that families come in all shapes and sizes. Arbitrary rules that restrict the rights of children to enjoy the places where they live are not acceptable.”
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis in November 2013 by U.S. Department of Justice officials, claimed that the Minnetonka homeowners’ association, management company and property manager of the 462-unit complex violated the federal Fair Housing Act.
In a 2013 Star Tribune article, attorneys for the company and homeowners’ association denied alleged discrimination.
According to the suit, a resident received a notice from property management in August 2011, reporting that the complex had received a complaint “about the children in your care being out on the grass by the building.”
The letter from the complex manager suggested that the resident’s great-grandchildren could use the playground on the other side of busy Cedar Lake Road, adding that if the children continued playing in the complex’s grass, they would be fined.
On July 25, 2011, the association enacted a rule banning playing, picnicking and sunbathing on lawns, sidewalks, landscaped areas and parking areas. It also banned the use of bicycles, tricycles, scooters, skates, skateboards, in-line roller skates and more.
Another regulation, in effect since August 2003, banned children from playing in hallways, stairwells, driveways, elevators, garages or any potentially dangerous area of the property.
“The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against families with children,” Vanita Gupta, the Department of Justice’s acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “This means more than just allowing those families to live at the property. It means giving these families fair access to the common areas and amenities.”