Feds allege Mission HOA discriminated against resident with walker who wanted to modify townhome’s sidewalk

Mission HOA

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says the Apollo Gardens Homeowners Association in Mission refused to allow a resident to alter the sidewalk outside her townhome to accommodate her walker, then voted to remove the resident from the HOA board. The case will be heard by an administrative law judge. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has charged a homeowners association in Mission with allegedly refusing to allow a resident to make modifications to the sidewalk outside her townhome that would have enabled easier use of her walker.

HUD also says the Apollo Gardens Homeowners Association then retaliated against the resident by removing her from a position on the HOA’s board.

In a statement, HUD says the Apollo Gardens HOA violated the Fair Housing Act, which allows residents to make “reasonable modifications” to their dwellings when such changes could enable a person with disabilities to more fully enjoy their property.

Apollo Gardens now faces a hearing before a federal administrative law judge and could face fines and civil penalties, including damages to the resident.

Sidewalk dispute

Apollo Gardens is a private association of more than 80 townhomes near 51st Street and Lamar Avenue, just south of Interstate 35 in Mission.

On its website, the homeowners association describes Apollo Gardens as “a quiet residential area with very limited access.”

The resident at the center of the complaint, whose name is redacted in HUD’s charging sheet, purchased and moved into a townhome in Apollo Gardens in July 2016.

She was later elected to the Apollo Gardens HOA board in November of that year to serve a two-year term as a “block captain.”

The HUD complaint says the resident first requested permission to make several modifications to the exterior of her townhome in April 2017. Her request included widening the sidewalk that led to her front door so that she could “lean against the house for support when walking.”

About a month later, the HOA board responded to the resident in an email saying some of the resident’s requests for modifications — including a wheelchair ramp leading to her front door — were approved, but the extension of the sidewalk towards her townhome’s front was not approved.

Alleged retaliation

The resident went ahead and hired a contractor to make the modifications to her townhome’s front, including widening the sidewalk. The HUD complaint says the resident paid the contractor $2,550 for the work.

A few weeks after the work was completed, in June 2017, HUD alleges the HOA board met and voted in closed session to strip the resident of her position as block captain.

The board later hired a contractor to remove the concrete that had been added to the townhome’s front to expand the sidewalk and sent the resident an invoice of $600 for that work, according to the charging sheet.

HUD alleges due to the HOA’s “discriminatory conduct,” the resident suffered “emotional distress, inconvenience and out-of-pocket costs.”

Named in the federal charging document is the Apollo Gardens Homeowners Association and the HOA board president Evelyn Thompson.

Thompson, who remains the HOA’s board president, responded to the Shawnee Mission Post’s request for comment through email.

“We are not allowed to respond to your questions under advisement of our lawyer, except to say that some of the allegations are not true,” Thompson wrote.

A HUD spokesperson said neither party elected to take the case to a federal civil trial, so now the charges will be heard by an administrative law judge.

In such hearings, parties can hire lawyers, call witnesses and conduct discovery of evidence.

The administrative law judge who hears the case will then decide if a Fair Housing Act violation has occurred and levy potential penalties.

Below is HUD’s charging document, with the name of the complainant resident redacted:

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