Time-shares are covered under Fair Housing Act; injunction upheld in New York religion case

In an important ruling in a federal fair housing lawsuit filed in Louisiana, District Court Judge Edith Brown Clement held that time-share condominiums were covered under the Fair Housing Act. Judge Brown pointed to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) regulations regarding Section 802 of the Fair Housing Act. According to the regulations, Section 802 was "broad enough to cover time-sharing properties." Judge Brown also noted that time-share owners had certain property rights in their condominiums. Therefore, Judge Brown concluded that time-share condos do fall under the Fair Housing Act's umbrella.

The January ruling came in a case against Quarter House, a resort complex in New Orleans' French Quarter. Louisiana ACORN Fair Housing filed the suit, alleging that Quarter House's employees and managers had violated the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights statutes by refusing to show units, give tours, or arrange sales to prospective buyers based on their race, religion, national origin, and family status.

According to the ACORN complaint, Quarter House's managers instructed employees to discriminate against African-Americans, citizens from countries other than the United States, people of Middle Eastern descent, people from Indian cultures, people who practiced non-Christian religions, physically disabled persons, pregnant women, families that included three children or more, and families with children under the age of ten.

Attorneys for Quarter House brought on Judge Brown's ruling by filing a motion for dismissal on the grounds that ACORN did not have a valid claim under the Fair Housing Act. Defense attorneys contended that time-share condominiums were not "dwellings" as defined by the Fair Housing Act. Judge Brown disagreed.

In a ruling late in 1996, a Second Circuit panel upheld an injunction in a religious discrimination case. The injunction prohibits the village of Airmont, New York from discriminating against Orthodox Jews.

The village of Airmont is located in Ramapo, New York. It was incorporated in 1991 in protest of Ramapo allowing synagogues to operate in residential areas. Because Orthodox Jews are not allowed to operate machinery (including automobiles) on the Sabbath, the synagogues were necessary because non-residential areas were not within walking distance of many Jewish homes. When Airmont was incorporated, village residents refused to allow synagogues to be operated in private homes, thus excluding Orthodox Jews from living in the village.

The Department of Justice and a group of Airmont's Jewish residents filed separate lawsuits under the Fair Housing Act claiming that Airmont had only been incorporated to segregate Orthodox Jews from the community. The suit also made claims under the First Amendment and other federal civil rights laws.

A jury found that Airmont had violated the Fair Housing Act and the First Amendment. Judge Gerard Goettel enjoined Airmont from promoting religious discrimination and ordered the village to change its zoning laws to allow home worship.

Airmont appealed, claiming that there were no acts of religious discrimination on record and that by ordering new zoning laws, the court had assumed the role of local government.