Should My LGBT Family Fear Homeowner’s Associations?

If you move into certain neighborhoods, apartment complexes, or condos, you may find that you have to abide by a number of rules and regulations set down by the neighborhood homeowners association.  In many cases, these are fairly simple—keep your yard in good condition, don’t put up an ugly metal carport, and don’t leave piles of garbage on the porch.

You Have Rights and Responsibilities Under a Homeowner's Association, Same As A Non-LGBT Family WouldBut some LGBT residents have had issues with homeowners associations.  The most recent incident has occurred in Australia, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen in the U.S. or anywhere around the world where homeowners associations exist.  The two elderly men were told that they had to remove their rainbow flag from the terrace of their apartment by the association because it violated the homeowners association regulations.  It was, they were told, in violation of the rules that say that the external appearance of all units in the complex must be uniform in nature—curtains, blinds, and all window fixtures need to appear very similar, and the rainbow flag stood out.  They also said that the rainbow flag was a type of advertising material that broke the rules.

This is just one example of LGBT people and homeowners associations butting heads.  Others have been told to remove the rainbow flags from their homes, although that is becoming more and more rare.  Others have found that they were discriminated against when they tried to run for the homeowners board of directors.

In some instances, you really need to read the homeowners association rules before moving into a neighborhood.  For example, a homeowners association can legally ban homeowners from flying flags, but it has to be a uniform ban—they can’t deny rainbow flags specifically, but they can ban all flags that are not protected by federal law (such as the U.S. flag).  They can also put restrictions on when flags are flown and even ban any flag that is so large it blocks other people’s views or is a danger to others.

Despite all of this, homeowners associations can also work for LGBT residents.  Many go out of their way to help protect LGBT homeowners rights and access to housing, while others work to keep hate speech and vandalism out of the neighborhood.  LGBT residents also face much less resistance to running for the association board of directors and are often very active in the community.  While some do see homeowners association rules as being restrictive, many are there to keep the neighborhood looking good, which of course will raise property values and, if you ever sell your home, can lead to higher selling prices.

What Types of Insurance May Be Required When My Same Sex Partner and I Purchase a Home?

When same sex partners, or any other couple, purchase a home, there are certain types of insurances that are important to purchase to protect you. If you obtain a mortgage to finance your home, the lender generally requires title and mortgage insurance. Below are types of insurance that may be required. Note that laws in different states vary regarding the types of insurance that is required.

imagesTitle Insurance

A title is your deed of ownership of the home. Title insurance provides coverage to protect the lender, and the borrower in some states, from problems that may not have been found prior to the sale of the property that could affect ownership. They first create an abstract of the property by examining public property records to ensure that the seller has a valid title that can be transferred to a buyer. The abstracts will describe any potential problems with the title such as unpaid property taxes, liens against the property due to unpaid debts and unfiled deeds.

If any problems arise after ownership is transferred to the buyer during the life of the loan that the title company did not uncover when creating its abstract, the insurance would pay for the defense for any damages that resulted from the lawsuit. For example, the owner died and his children inherited due through state intestacy laws because the owner did not have a will. At some later date, a child from a previous marriage sues because he was not part of the inheritance and claiming that he should have received a portion of the home.

Owners Title Insurance

If title insurance only protects the lender, you may be required to purchase a separate homeowners title policy that will protect you and your partner. This type of insurance protects you and your partner against title defects that could result in the need for legal counsel and protects the equity in your home. For example, although the lender is covered by the title insurance, if you end up losing your home due to a defect, you will be unable to recover any of the equity that you have in your home. Equity is the difference between the market value and the amount that is owed on any loans against the property.

Mortgage Insurance

Generally, if you make less than a 20 percent down payment, the lender will require that you purchase mortgage insurance. This type of insurance will cover any losses by the lender that may result if you fail to pay your mortgage. The premium is generally included in your monthly mortgage payment and will be discontinued when you have paid enough to equal 20 percent of the loan.

Homeowners Insurance

Most mortgage companies require that you maintain a homeowners policy that will cover the cost of replacing the home or a minimum of the amount of the mortgage. If you do not maintain the insurance, the mortgage company can obtain the insurance for you and include it in your monthly mortgage payment. The cost in those instances is generally much higher than you were paying and only covers the structure of the building.

Your homeowners’ policy should cover the structure, your contents in the home, and injuries to others or their personal property while at your home. There is additional coverage that can be purchased including other structures, such as garages and barns, and loss caused by natural disasters or events such as flooding and earthquakes. Those types of coverage are generally not included in a standard homeowner’s policy and must be requested. Standard coverage may, depending on the state that you reside in, cover wind and hail damage.

The above is a general outline of required insurance coverage’s when you purchase a home. Your real estate agent can give you more details related to the necessary insurance coverage in your state and can refer you to an LGBT friendly insurance agent. If you plan to purchase a home, a search on can help ensure that you find an agent that you can trust and are comfortable working with. For more information on hiring a real estate agent, see our articles Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Gay Realtor for your Home Purchase and Top 6 Questions Every Gay Home Buyer Should Ask Their Realtor.

Dealing with Estate Planning

One of the most difficult aspects of anyone’s life, no matter what orientation they identify as, is handling estate planning.  The idea of dealing with your partner’s death is not a pleasant thought, and because of that, a number of couples put off preparing their wills or even discussing estate planning at all.  That can lead to a number of problems when one spouse dies, especially for LGBT couples in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage or any type of domestic partner benefits.

Estate PlanningThose who are not able to own a property jointly will need to make certain they have a will states that the partner will take full ownership of that property after their death.  If they do not, the property will go into probate, which means the state will take ownership until the legal heir is determined.  If you’re not married and your spouse isn’t legally recognized as your partner, he or she will most likely not be deemed the legal heir and the property will pass to a family member.  In some cases, this means the surviving spouse may suddenly be homeless and without any of the property (everything, not simply real estate, but vehicles, furniture, pets, and anything else that was jointly purchased) the two accumulated throughout their lives together.

Of course, one way to help ensure the surviving partner is recognized as at least a partial owner of real estate is to put both names on the title.  However, this can cause some other issues if you’re not recognized as a legally married couple.  If the property isn’t held jointly, the family of the deceased spouse may end up owning half of the real estate.  One spouse may also have to file a gift tax return.  This is one area where you will want to be certain to talk to a real estate agent and lawyer who understand how the law applies to LGBT property owners in your area.  Remember, once a name is placed on a property deed, it cannot be removed without that person’s consent or a court order.

One thing that LGBT partners can do is create a domestic partnership agreement.  This document, which can be filed by any two people in a committed relationship regardless of gender, can be used to prove a financial relationship between two people.  It outlines both partner’s responsibilities and can be used to outline how your property and other assets are divided upon death or separation.

Constitutionality of home insurance laws questioned

A local public insurance adjuster and the president of a home inspectors group allege that parts of property insurance laws passed this year and last hurt their industries and are unconstitutional.

Public adjuster restrictions

In a lawsuit filed this month in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, Eduardo Rodriguez is suing the state over changes made by a a sweeping law this year that prevent public adjusters who represent state-backed Citizens Property Insurance policyholders from getting paid for their services until the insurer makes an offer. The law also limits what they can charge after that.

Public adjusters are hired by policyholders to prepare, file or complete claims. The new law restricts fees for public adjusters representing Citizens policyholders to 10 percent over the original amount the insurer offered for a claim.

Rodriguez, president of Expert Claims Adjusters in Miami, notes in the suit that the law doesn’t define an original offer but documents from Citizens imply it’s a written offer after the insurer has adjusted and investigated the claim. He said the time before that is critical because a policyholder may make decisions that affect how much money they’ll receive such as finding all the damages and preserving evidence.

The law “does not allow a public adjuster remuneration for performing inherent and necessary tasks until Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has made a nebulous, vague and undefined ‘original offer,'” according to the suit. That violates a public adjuster’s “right to contract and [other rights] such as the right to be rewarded for industry.”

The same restriction doesn’t apply to private insurers’ policyholders: State law caps their public adjusters’ fees at 10 percent for hurricane claims made during the first year and 20 percent for all other claims.

Home inspector restrictions

Steve Taylor, president of the Florida chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors, wrote a letter to state officials recently saying changes that allow licensed contractors or engineering firms to hire unlicensed people to do inspections to verify hurricane insurance discounts but bar home inspection firms from doing the same violate unfair trade practice regulations.

“The contractor and engineer business owner can hire a non-licensed individual at a much lower wage than the other business entities who can only hire licensed individuals…As a result, the contractor and engineer business owner can deliver the wind mitigation service to the consumer at a much lower fee than the other business entities, thus creating an unfair market advantage,” Taylor wrote to the Financial Services Commission, which is made up of the Cabinet.

Regulators made changes to a form used to verify hurricane insurance discounts based on changes required by a 2010 law. Despite the letter from Taylor, the Florida Cabinet approved the new form this month.

The state Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on a lawsuit alleging a 2009 law barring public adjusters from soliciting business right after a disaster violates free speech.


The author of this article is: Julie Patel

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