A group home is more or less a residence shared by multiple unrelated persons with common needs. These homes are frequently – though not necessarily – transitional; meaning that the residents only intend to stay there for a limited time. In the United States, a group home can be commercial (i.e., charge fees for treatment and rent with intent of making a profit), or it can be run by a non – profit organization or charitable institution at little or no charge to the residents.

However, under the right conditions, group living can be of great benefit to people managing difficult situations. These homes can house elderly or disabled persons in need of long – term care, recovering addicts who want treatment and emotional support, or partially released offenders reintegrating into society. Group homes can provide the much -needed support to individuals who might not be ready or able to live alone.

Reasons Group Homes are Not Welcomed in Neighborhoods

Unfortunately, though, these homes can sometimes come with downsides for the residents of the surrounding neighbourhood. For instance, if plenty adults share the same facility, the additional traffic and parking requirements might be more than a neighbourhood can handle.

Also, if the group home’s residents are striving to overcome addiction, a relapse into substance abuse could result in a dangerous environment or affected neighbourhood. Or, more generally, people in transitional housing might not share the same ethical interest in keeping the neighbourhood tidy, well – maintained, and peaceful as homeowners with a long – term commitment to the neighbourhood.

Is It Possible to Kick Out Group Homes from your Neighborhood?

Note that with these potential disadvantages in mind, some homeowners’ associations or neighbourhoods have made tireless attempts to restrict or even get group homes out of their area. Howbeit, these associations have also learnt the hard way that federal law provides powerful protection to certain group homes.

Indeed it does not mean that HOAs or residential neighbourhood associations are powerless, though – they just need to make sure that adoption and enforcement of restrictive covenants occurs in a legally compliant manner.

In the United States, zoning ordinances and HOA covenants most times restricts commercial use of properties in residential areas. Therefore, a group home that accepts payments for services offered at the home is almost certainly engaging in commercial activity.

Although the plain language of an ordinance or covenant might appear to prohibit such a group home, federal law still forbids state and local governments or HOAs from restricting certain protected uses. In the same vein, HOA covenants often only allow lots to be used as single-family residences – or limit the number of unrelated persons who can live in any one home – either of which would seem to prohibit group homes.

Howbeit, these provisions may not be active against certain group homes due to federal legislation preventing discrimination in housing and public accommodation based on certain protected statuses.

Group homes can be located within HOA communities and neighbourhoods, but any association wishing to limit or get out group homes can adopt restrictive covenants to that end. However, do not forget that in most situations, federal law will prevent enforcement of those covenants.

How to Get a Group Home Out of Your Neighbourhood

Group homes in residential neighbourhoods have seen a surge in popularity in recent years. And homeowners associations from across the country are scrambling to learn how to deal with them. These homes undeniably provide valuable services when well-run under the right circumstances. But not every neighbourhood is an ideal or appropriate location for a group home.

If you live in a neighbourhood with a group home or two, it is normal for you to want to remove them from the community due to growing concerns. Howbeit, it is not that easy. Denying these homes may bring about some legal consequences for your association. However, consider the following options;

1. Check the Law (Fair Housing Act and State Laws)

Have it in mind that certain federal and state laws protect group homes in HOA communities or residential neighbourhoods. For example, the Fair Housing Act prevents associations from discriminating against tenants or residents. This includes the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Also note that according to the law, HOAs can’t prohibit disabled persons from using a property based on any mental or physical impairment. Covenants or rules stating otherwise are deemed unenforceable. Additionally, according to federal courts, “impairment” also covers alcoholism and drug addiction. It also entails that associations do not possess the power to ban group homes catering to such individuals as well.

Even though you have no right to ban these types of homes, that does not mean such residents are not bound by neighbourhood rules. The people living in group homes are still expected still abide by the neighbourhood association’s governing documents. It also means that they are expected to follow the covenants and rules that every other homeowner follows.

The neighbourhood association can also fine them or take away their privileges (depending on the governing documents) should they violate the rules. Also note that you can create resolutions governing how your association can regulate group homes. However, although, that your group home rules should not come into conflict with federal, state, or local laws.

2. No Commercial Use

In the United, have it in mind that not all states have laws protecting group homes. In states without such laws, your neighbourhood association would have to refer to its governing documents. Note that most residential neighbourhood associations prohibit commercial or business use of properties within the community.

Group homes more or less fall under commercial use of a property, even if it is not – for – profit. However, refer back to your declarations to see if your association allows for commercial property use. It would also be wise to get legal advice about the situation.

Conclusion

Even though restrictive covenants provide communities with a powerful tool for preserving the quality of life in a neighbourhood, the restrictions they can place on group homes are somewhat limited. Group homes indeed present a multifaceted challenge for homeowners’ or neighbourhood associations.

Also, the homes provide a valuable service to many people in need of non – traditional living arrangements due to medical issues or age, chemical dependency, or prior incarceration. However, through creative planning and the assistance of experienced counsel, an association can develop a strategy that minimizes the problems associated with group homes while respecting the relevant legal rights of all parties involved.

Joy Nwokoro