Motor Home At Center Of Accommodation Dispute
The parents of a woman with severe disabilities are suing their former homeowners association after the association refused to allow them to use their driveway to park a motor home they bought to take their daughter to medical appointments.
Gary and Renee Kuhn’s lawsuit states that their 33-year-old daughter has frequent bouts of diarrhea, so she must always be near a toilet and a shower to wash off.
The Kuhns and their doctors decided it would be best to transport their daughter in a motor home. The Kuhns asked their homeowners association for an exception to neighborhood rules forbidding motor homes, the association said no.
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Last week, the Kuhns filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oregon. The Kuhns don’t seek a specific dollar amount, but ultimately ended up incurring tens of thousands in expenses in selling their Keizer, Ore. home and moving to a new neighborhood in Woodburn, Ore.
An attorney for the McNary Estates Homeowners Association told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the association wasn’t callous to the Kuhns’ situation and tried to work out a solution.
“The board from day one has been extremely sympathetic to the Kuhns and their daughter,” Portland attorney Kevin Harker said. “But they’re also legally obligated to follow and enforce their CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions). And one of those CC&Rs is owners can’t park their RVs anywhere in the community.”
Harker said he tried to sit down with the Kuhns and a mediator to work out a solution, but “they categorically, multiple times, rejected even discussing how we could resolve this.”
One of the Kuhns’ attorneys, Dennis Steinman, however, said his clients “bent over backwards” to communicate with McNary Estates and a sub-homeowners association to work out a CC&R exception – otherwise known as a “reasonable accommodation” that is required by law. But the associations wouldn’t budge – and that’s a violation of their daughter’s civil rights under federal and Oregon fair housing acts, Steinman said.
The Kuhns bought their Keizer home in 2005. Their daughter – Khrizma – has Down syndrome, autism and an IQ of 36.
“Although she is 33 years old, (she) functions at the level of a two-and-a-half year old,” according to the suit. “Khrizma is essentially non-verbal, cannot bathe or groom herself, and uses a wheelchair outside of the home due to her inability to walk long distances.”
Their daughter also suffers severe incontinence, and in 2014 began to need to be near a toilet at all times, the suit states. A motor home provides a toilet and shower for their daughter, but also a place for her to lie down to relieve her scoliosis, the suit states.
Before buying the motor home, however, the Kuhns asked the McNary Estates Homeowners Association to make an exception to standard rules by allowing them to park the motor home in their driveway, the lawsuit states. The Kuhns provided a detailed explanation and letters from their doctor and another medical provider, the suit states.
The homeowners association didn’t approve the Kuhns’ request during a meeting last May, the suit says. Shortly after, the association’s attorney tried to work out alternate solutions, according to the suit: having the Kuhns park their motor home at a location outside the neighborhood or having the Kuhns buy a van with a chemical toilet.
The Kuhns didn’t think the first idea would work because Renee Kuhn didn’t want to risk even short trips driving to the motor home in a car because of their daughter’s incontinence. The Kuhns also didn’t think a van would work because they needed a flushable toilet, a shower and a place for their daughter to lie down.
The Kuhns hired their own attorney, who solicited the help of the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, the suit states. In June 2015, the council sent the association a letter backing the Kuhns – and the letter included a photo of a motor home parked in the Kuhns’ driveway that didn’t protrude out into the street, as the association had worried, the suit states.
The Kuhns went ahead and bought a motor home in July.
But within days, a neighbor complained that the motor home was blocking her line of sight when leaving her driveway, the suit says.
The Kuhns tried to solve the problem by paying for a parabolic mirror to be installed, but the neighbor wasn’t interested.
The association then sent out a letter to residents who lived near the Kuhns, stating that it would seek a court order to force the Kuhns to move their motor home, according to the suit.
At that point, the Kuhns decided to put their house up for sale. They sold it in August and bought a house within a Woodburn homeowners association – but only after that association approved parking the motor home in their driveway.
“In spite of having CC&Rs nearly identical to McNary Estates, the Woodburn HOA approved Mr. and Mrs. Kuhn’s request within 48 hours of receiving it,” the suit states.
The Kuhns paid $76,000 more for their new house, although it didn’t have golf course views like their old house and was in a noisier and less secluded neighborhood, the suit says. The Kuhns also had to spend a stressful month in a motel – costing $2,400 – before they could move into their new house, the suit says.
The suit seeks the Kuhns’ costs, as well as punitive damages and attorneys fees that are yet to be determined.
Gary Kuhn, 59, teaches job searching and resuming writing skills at Chemeketa Community College. Renee Kuhn, 60, stays at home taking care of their daughter full time.
The Kuhns’ attorney, Steinman, said a judge ordered McNary Estates in 2011 to allow one of its residents to install 4-foot-tall “privacy screens” between his backyard and the adjacent golf course for the safety of an 11-year-old boy with Down syndrome who lived at the home and wandered onto the golf course.
“Here we have an HOA that had already been sued before and lost on disability discrimination, and they didn’t learn the last time,” Steinman said.
© 2016 The Oregonian
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