The dining room has been the cornerstone of family life in America for generations. It was Ronald Reagan who once noted, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” Many continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) are finding that the balance between maintaining the quintessential dining room experience for their residents and following the Fair Housing Act (FHA) obligations imposed on assisted and independent living facilities to be a daunting task. In this article, I review the importance of FHA compliance in dining room policies at CCRC facilities.
Common area dining rooms are often the most popular gathering locations in a CCRC and also the most common areas where policies, enacted with the best intentions, are likely to give rise to claims of discrimination arising under the FHA. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 includes the FHA, which prohibits discrimination in housing-related practices based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status and disability. The FHA’s broad definition of disability includes mental and physical impairments common to CCRC facility residents. Discrimination based on a disability includes the refusal by the facility to make reasonable accommodations to policies, programs, or services that would allow residents to use and enjoy the facility, including the common areas.
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