by Nadeen Green, JD
Yes, I know it is June. But by the time I learned that May is MCS Month and was inspired to write this article for MHProNews, it was time for the June article (which I actually am writing in May, even if you are reading it in June). Did you know that May is MCS Month? Probably not. Do you know what MCS is? Probably not. Did you know that MCS can be a disability under the Fair Housing Act? Probably not.
But just because you do not know, it doesn’t mean that others may not be totally aware and informed. I heard a rumor (from a pretty decent source) that there are folks with MCS going to communities to ask about what will be done if someone with MCS moves in. Whether these folks are fair housing testers or whether they merely want to inform the housing industry about MCS, you need to have an understanding as to what this is all about.
HUD concluded in 1992 that MCS can be a disability under the FHA; ordinary allergies do not rise to this standard. MCS has been determined to be a disability in Federal court cases, State court cases, and by other Federal agencies. One court case defined MCS as: an acquired disorder characterized by recurrent symptoms, referable to multiple organ systems, occurring in response to demonstrable exposure to many chemically unrelated compounds at doses far below those established in the general population to cause harmful effects. (Hey, I have a law degree, not a medical degree; those lawyers could have said “some folks’ systems can be severely impacted if they cannot cope with even small amounts of chemicals that the rest of us manage with just fine”.)
So with heightened awareness (the focus any time it is “Something Month”), you may be seeing more applicants and residents in the future raising issues related to MCS. What do you do if someone who has a home near your pool raises the issue that your pool chemicals are causing problems for them because of their MCS? What do you do if someone tells you that you cannot use a particular weed killer on the common area grass areas because of their MCS? I will tell you what you should not do, and that is to ignore the issue or pooh-pooh it (note the sophisticated legal language that I just used). Rather, should the issue arise, you need to know that you have a duty to consider and possibly reasonably accommodate that someone (which is determined on a case-by-case basis as to if and what you may be required to do). So consider this a head’s up and recognize the fair housing implications.
FYI, May was also Asparagus Month, but I decided not to blog on that. ##