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LAW OFFICES OF HERB M. MILGRIM, P.A.
3800 SOUTH OCEAN DRIVE
JOE DIMAGGIO SUITE #217
HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA 33019
25
OCT
2016

Changes to Florida Laws on Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

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Many Florida Condominium Associations have made it increasingly more difficult for individuals with assistance animals like Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals.  Contrary to both State and Federal Laws, some Associations have refused to allow Emotional Support Animals and will only allow individuals with Service Dogs. The main differences between Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals are that Service Dogs require specialized training to assist their owner with a disability related task while Emotional Support Animals do not need specialized training.  According to HUD, Emotional Support Animals, by their very nature may relieve depression and anxiety, and help reduce stress-induced pain in persons with certain medical conditions affected by stress. Unfortunately, most individuals are unaware of the fact that while Emotional Support Animals are recognized by the Fair Housing Act (“FHAA”) they are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  That means that you cannot bring Emotional Support Animals to public places like stores, restaurants and shopping malls.

Recent data suggests that Florida Condo Owners and Homeowners are going online searching “Service Dog Certification” and purchasing Emotional Support Dog Kits or even trying to get a Doctor’s letter via an online service.  These online registration kits and online Doctors are big red flags for the Condo and HOA Associations and usually result in a denial of the request.   It has even been rumored that  a Condo Association’s Lawyer went online and registered “Pluto” as a Service Dog on behalf of “Minnie & Mickey Mouse” and purchased  a tag and vest  and posted pictures of them online just to demonstrate that they have no real value or validity.

Many public places are afraid to question somebody with a dog for fear of a discrimination complaint and the bad press that usually follows.  As a result we see many people in the stores, restaurants and shopping malls with dogs that we know cannot be service dogs. It has become so problematic with people bringing their animals to public places that the Florida Legislature recently amended Florida Law making it a crime to misrepresent that your dog is a Service Dog. Florida Statute Section 413.08(9) was amended July 1, 2015, to state that a person who misrepresents having a service animal commits a misdemeanor of the second degree.

According to the Statute,  a public accommodation may ask (1) if an animal is a service animal necessary for a disability and (2) what disability related tasks the animal is trained to perform for its owner.  For individuals seeking accommodations in Florida Condominiums and Homeowner Associations, they may be asked much more if their disability is not readily apparent.  If Condo Associations and HOA’s have reason to question a person’s disability or need for an assistance animal they have the right to request additional information before the Association can properly evaluate an accommodation request.  Unfortunately, for many individuals, they are not aware of just how far the Associations can go with these inquiries and the Associations almost always go way beyond what is normally allowed.  Also, it is important to note that you don’t automatically get an accommodation simply because you are disabled. You must seek out the accommodation from the Association and provide reliable documentation to establish that you have a disability and that the animal in question will provide some type of disability-related assistance or emotional support.  Many people try to do this on their own without understanding the various complexities with the State and Federal Laws and wind up doing more harm than good.

In light of the recent changes to Florida Law and the ever increasing problem with people misrepresenting their need for these assistance animals, Florida Condo Associations and HOA’s have been cracking on down and have made it much more difficult for people to obtain an accommodation to the Association’s Pet Restrictions or Pet Rules.   Before you approach your Association with such a request you should seek out the advice of a Florida Lawyer that represents individuals and who has experience with the Fair Housing Act and the Laws regarding service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals.

If you or somebody close to you  has an Assistance Animal such as a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal and your Condo Association or Homeowner Association does not allow pets,  you will need to request an accommodation from the Association.   We will assist you with the entire process to make sure that your request is properly documented and has the best chance of being approved.

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A., is a Florida Law Firm that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association. We provide prospective clients with a *Free Case Evaluation. You can call us and tell us about your case to see if we can help you. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Federal & Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now (954) 966-3909!

* Free Case Evaluation is by telephone and does not include legal advice. Office consults with legal advice are available on a flat fee basis.

24
OCT
2016

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We have recently updated our Article discussing Water and Mold Damage in Condos.  Please read the complete article below:

Miami Condo Lawyer Discusses Toxic Mold in Condos and Water Damage

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As a Florida Condo Lawyer with offices near Miami, South Beach, Sunny Isles, Aventura and Fort Lauderdale,   I get hundreds of calls from condo owners that have suffered some type of damage due to toxic mold and water intrusion from the condominium common elements like the roof and plumbing as well as damage from other units.  Most people think that the Condominium Association Insurance will cover all of their damage.  While it is true that Florida Condominium Associations are responsible for maintaining the common elements and are required to provide insurance for the building, most Condominium Insurance Policies have mold exclusions or have very limited coverage for damage due to mold.  In addition, most people don’t know that Florida Condominium Owners are required to have insurance on their own units. Section 718.111 of the Florida Condominium Act  sets forth the insurance requirements for Condominium Association and for the Individual Condo Owners.  Typically the Association is responsible from the drywall out and the individual unit owner is responsible from the paint inward.  That means, if a common pipe bursts without any warning and all of your furniture and personal property gets damaged,  you won’t be able to recover unless you have insurance on your condominium unit or unless you can prove negligence on the part of the condominium association or some other party. The standard insurance policy that individuals usually obtain for their condominium unit is what is called an “HO6” Policy.  This policy provides coverage for the Dwelling and for the Personal Property or contents of the unit.  The difference between the two coverages is best explained by the following: imagine if you could turn your condominium unit upside down… everything that does not fall downward would be considered part of the Dwelling  and everything else would be considered Personal Property.  Some individual Condominium Insurance Policies also provide coverage for Mold and for Loss of Use.  If the water or mold damage is so severe that the unit is not livable then  the Loss of Use portion can provide benefits for you to obtain temporary housing somewhere else.   The Mold coverage is usually significantly less than the coverage for the Dwelling or even the Personal Property.  Many Insurance Adjusters dealing with  condo owners will try and take advantage of this and blame the entire loss on the mold and thereby attempt to limit the amount they ultimately pay out to their own insureds.

In cases where the Condominium Association’s Insurance Carrier is involved,  they typically send out Inspectors and other Experts to go in and view the damage.  In past experiences we have seen these Inspectors hired by Association Insurance intent on looking to blame the cause of the water intrusion or mold damage on something that the Unit  Owner is responsible for maintaining; like the Air Conditioning or the Windows.  Moreover, these Inspectors rarely share their findings with the Unit Owners.    Therefore, it is important for Unit Owners to hire their own experts to go in and assess the damage and obtain the evidence necessary to confirm that the cause of the water intrusion was due to a failure to maintain the common elements by the Association.

An experienced Florida Condo Attorney that represents the individual Condo Owners will know what experts to bring in to prove the loss is due to a failure to maintain the common elements.  In addition, he will know the arguments to make to show that the original cause of the loss was due to water intrusion and will argue in favor of the greater coverages for the dwelling and personal property.   The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A., is one of the only Florida Condo Law Firms that does not represent the Associations.   We will guide you through the process step by step and coordinate with the various experts and inspectors to make sure that your interests are protected.

We represent individual unit owners (Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners) that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association or another owner.   We provide prospective clients with a *Free Case Evaluation.  You can call us and tell us about your case to see if we can help you.  Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now  (954) 966-3909! If you have water or mold damage in your condominium, townhouse or cooperative in Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Sunny Isles, Downtown Miami,  South Beach, Aventura, Davie, Dania Beach, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coral Springs, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Naples or anywhere in Florida be sure to contact us for a free case evaluation.

* FREE CASE EVALUATION IS BY TELEPHONE AND DOES NOT INCLUDE LEGAL ADVICE.  OFFICE CONSULTS WITH LEGAL ADVICE ARE AVAILABLE ON A FLAT FEE BASIS.

 

13
OCT
2014

Miami Condo Lawyer Discusses Toxic Mold in Condos and Water Damage

As a Florida Condo Lawyer with offices near Miami, South Beach, Sunny Isles, Aventura and Fort Lauderdale,   I get hundreds of calls from condo owners that have suffered some type of damage due to toxic mold and water intrusion from the condominium common elements like the roof and plumbing as well as damage from other units.  Most people think that the Condominium Association Insurance will cover all of their damage.  While it is true that Florida Condominium Associations are responsible for maintaining the common elements and are required to provide insurance for the building, most Condominium Insurance Policies have mold exclusions or have very limited coverage for damage due to mold.  In addition, most people don’t know that Florida Condominium Owners are required to have insurance on their own units. Section 718.111 of the Florida Condominium Act  sets forth the insurance requirements for Condominium Association and for the Individual Condo Owners.  Typically the Association is responsible from the drywall out and the individual unit owner is responsible from the paint inward.  That means, if a common pipe bursts without any warning and all of your furniture and personal property gets damaged,  you won’t be able to recover unless you have insurance on your condominium unit or unless you can prove negligence on the part of the condominium association or some other party. The standard insurance policy that individuals usually obtain for their condominium unit is what is called an “HO6” Policy.  This policy provides coverage for the Dwelling and for the Personal Property or contents of the unit.  The difference between the two coverages is best explained by the following: imagine if you could turn your condominium unit upside down… everything that does not fall downward would be considered part of the Dwelling  and everything else would be considered Personal Property.  Some individual Condominium Insurance Policies also provide coverage for Mold and for Loss of Use.  If the water or mold damage is so severe that the unit is not livable then  the Loss of Use portion can provide benefits for you to obtain temporary housing somewhere else.   The Mold coverage is usually significantly less than the coverage for the Dwelling or even the Personal Property.  Many Insurance Adjusters dealing with  condo owners will try and take advantage of this and blame the entire loss on the mold and thereby attempt to limit the amount they ultimately pay out to their own insureds.

In cases where the Condominium Association’s Insurance Carrier is involved,  they typically send out Inspectors and other Experts to go in and view the damage.  In past experiences we have seen these Inspectors hired by Association Insurance intent on looking to blame the cause of the water intrusion or mold damage on something that the Unit  Owner is responsible for maintaining; like the Air Conditioning or the Windows.  Moreover, these Inspectors rarely share their findings with the Unit Owners.    Therefore, it is important for Unit Owners to hire their own experts to go in and assess the damage and obtain the evidence necessary to confirm that the cause of the water intrusion was due to a failure to maintain the common elements by the Association.

An experienced Florida Condo Attorney that represents the individual Condo Owners will know what experts to bring in to prove the loss is due to a failure to maintain the common elements.  In addition, he will know the arguments to make to show that the original cause of the loss was due to water intrusion and will argue in favor of the greater coverages for the dwelling and personal property.   The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A., is one of the only Florida Condo Law Firms that does not represent the Associations.   We will guide you through the process step by step and coordinate with the various experts and inspectors to make sure that your interests are protected.

We represent individual unit owners (Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners) that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association or another owner.   We provide prospective clients with a *Free Case Evaluation.  You can call us and tell us about your case to see if we can help you.  Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now  (954) 966-3909! If you have water or mold damage in your condominium, townhouse or cooperative in Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Sunny Isles, Downtown Miami,  South Beach, Aventura, Davie, Dania Beach, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coral Springs, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Naples or anywhere in Florida be sure to contact us for a free case evaluation.

* FREE CASE EVALUATION IS BY TELEPHONE AND DOES NOT INCLUDE LEGAL ADVICE.  OFFICE CONSULTS WITH LEGAL ADVICE ARE AVAILABLE ON A FLAT FEE BASIS.
02
JUL
2014

Selective Enforcement by Condo Associations and HOAs

As an Attorney that represents Condo Owners and Homeowners throughout Florida, the term I hear the most from the many people that call my Hollywood Florida Office is  “Selective Enforcement.”     Most people don’t really understand exactly what this term means and how it is applied in legal cases where condo owners and homeowners have disputes with their associations.

Typically,  Selective Enforcement is used as a defense by an owner to a claim by the association that the owner is violating one of the association rules or restrictive covenants in the Association Governing Documents.  In some rare cases the owner may actually initiate a lawsuit or arbitration against the Condo Association claiming that they are arbitrarily or selectively enforcing their rules and regulations.  Caution should be advised and an experienced attorney should be consulted  before bringing any type of legal action against an association as the loser is usually held responsible for the other side’s attorney’s fees under the prevailing party attorney’s fee provisions in the Governing Documents and Florida Statutes. 

The party challenging the enforcement of an otherwise valid covenant has the burden to prove defensive matters that preclude enforcement, such as the enforcing authority acted in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner.  See, Prisco v. Forest Villas Condo. Apartments, Inc., 847 So. 2d 1012 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003).  The problem usually arises when  people mistakenly claim Selective Enforcement.   If an Association is not enforcing one specific group of regulations, that does not entitle an owner to claim selective enforcement as to another entirely different set of regulations.     If you want to claim that you are not in violation of an Association restriction on pickup trucks you have to show that they are acting in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner by allowing other owners to park their pickup trucks.   You can’t compare “apples to oranges” when trying to prove Selective Enforcement, it must be “apples to apples.”

One of the key Florida Case Decisions on Selective Enforcement is the case of White Egret Condominium, Inc.,  v. Franklin,  379 So.2d 346 (Fla. 1979).  In the White decision the Florida Supreme Court held that enforcement of condominium age restriction was an unconstitutional arbitrary and unequal enforcement of the restriction where  other owners where allowed to reside at the condominium despite the fact that they were in violation of the restriction.

According to Section 718.1255 of the Florida Condominium Act, many Condo Disputes in Florida are required to go to Arbitration before the DBPR as an alternative dispute resolution method before resorting to a lawsuit in the Courts.    The Florida Administrative Code sets fort many of the procedural rules that apply to these Arbitration proceedings.  According to 61B-45.019 the defense of selective enforcement requires the following:

 The defense of selective enforcement shall contain all examples of selective enforcement upon which the respondent depends, shall indicate the unit(s) to which each example pertains, shall identify the unit owner(s), how long the violation has existed, and shall indicate whether the board knew of the existence of the violation(s).

Simply alleging that there are other violations being overlooked at the condominium will not be enough to succeed on a claim of Selective Enforcement.

Condominium Associations and Homeowner’s Associations in Florida have big Law Firms on retainer using the money you pay as Association Dues.  In the event you think you have a a Selective Enforcement claim or other dispute with the Association keep in mind that these Law Firms are not there to advise you but to represent the interests of the Association.   Before trying to deal with Association Lawyers and experienced Property Managers you need to seek out the advice of an experienced Trial Attorney that represents the individual.

Call  a Condo Lawyer that represents owners

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners in Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Sunny Isles, Downtown Miami, Aventura, Davie, Dania Beach, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coral Springs, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Naples or anywhere in Florida, that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.  We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation.  Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now (954) 966-3909!

 

* Free Case Evaluation is by telephone and does not include legal advice. Office consults with legal advice are available on a flat fee basis. Personal Injury Cases may be eligible for a Free Office Consultation and Representation on a Contingency Fee Basis.

 

02
JUL
2014

A Victory Against Condo for Disabled Woman With Service Dog

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US District Court rules in favor of disabled woman. Judge tells condo to allow service dog.   Read the full article here.

 

01
OCT
2013

Is a Doctor’s Letter Enough For a Waiver in No Pet Condo?

If you have ever walked around any of the high end shopping malls like the Bal Harbor Shops,  Aventura Mall, Town Center Mall in Boca Raton, or the exclusive Waterside Shops in Naples, you can’t help but notice many people with their cute little dogs walking around the Mall or in these cute little baby carriages.   As a Trial Attorney that helps Condo Owners and Homeowners obtain accommodations in no pet housing I was curious what laws allowed these people (with no apparent disability) to bring their dogs into the Mall.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a dog lover and would bring my Dalmatians (Jimmy and Lucy) with me everywhere if I could, but my curiosity really just got the better of me.  One person told me they had a Doctor’s Note and that their dog was a Therapy Pet.  Another person told me that their dog (white Bijon in a Burberry Stroller) was a Service Dog but she admitted that she does not really have a disability and nobody at the Mall has ever questioned her.  Often times they refer to these Assistance Animals as a Comfort Pet, Companion Animal, or Emotional Support Pet. For many people seeking a waiver in a No Pet Condominium, questions are always asked.  Unless you know the correct answers you could be raising a red flag for the Condo to seek the removal of your animal or face legal action.

Many individuals seeking a waiver of Condo Pet Rules on their own do more harm than good by raising so called “red flags” that lead to skepticism and ultimately a denial of their request.  One of the most common “red flags” is using the wrong terminology to describe their animal.  Many people don’t understand the difference between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, Companion Animals and Therapy Dogs.

Wikipedia defines Emotional Support Animals as  “a companion animal which provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating or mitigating some symptoms of the disability, to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_support_animal#Multiple_emotional_support_animals)

Service Animals are allowed in public places  like restaurants and shopping malls but they do require specialized training and there must be a direct nexus between the person’s disability.   The Federal Regulations contained in the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) sets forth a narrow definition:

Service Animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.  The revised regulations specify that the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purpose of this definition.  servanimals_ntcfheo2013-01

An Assistance Animal like an Emotional Support Animal is not a pet.   Emotional Support Animals are covered under the Fair Housing Amendment’s Act which does not require specialized training or certification.

Online Certification of an Emotional Support Animal is a definite “red flag” for many Condo Associations being asked to make an accommodation for an individual with a psychological disability.    These so called “Online Certifications” are nothing more than filling out a form and paying a fee in exchange for some type of certificate.  These “Online Certifications” for Emotional Support Animals do not address the key factors such as how the use of an Emotional Support Animal will improve or eliminate the effects of the person’s disability or how the animal is necessary for the individual to be afforded an opportunity to use and enjoy their residence.   Moreover, neither State Law nor the Federal Law impose any “certification” requirement for these Assistance Animals.

In a 2012 Article on this website I wrote about the many negative portrayals in the press surrounding the use of Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs.    In addition to the bad press there have also been some negative cases decided in the Florida Courts and Federal Courts that have allowed Condo Associations and HOA’s to make it even more difficult for people with disabilities to get a waiver or reasonable accommodation to live with their Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal.

Many people think they can simply go online and obtain a sample Doctor letter and then hire some online therapist to sign off on their letter.   Unfortunately, in cases where the person’s disability is not readily apparent,  the Association has the right and even a duty to start a dialogue  to conduct a meaningful review of the individual’s disability and their need for having an Emotional Support Animal.  Most Florida Condominiums and HOA’s seek legal advice from Association Lawyers on all requests for waivers of No Pet Rules or requests for Reasonable Accommodations under the Fair Housing Act.

Over the past several year we have handled many cases for individuals seeking a reasonable accommodation to live with an Assistance Animal like a Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal.  In almost all of the cases where the people already had a Doctor’s Letter it was clear that the letter did not provide the necessary information in order to secure the Accommodation.   In all of these cases we worked closely with the Doctor to make sure that all of the important information was spelled out by the Doctor to avoid the need for further inquiries by the Condo Association.

If you or somebody close to you  has a Disability that involves one or more major life functions and needs an Assistance Animal such as a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal, you need to contact us to discuss your rights before attempting to seek a waiver of the Association’s No Pet Rules.  In some cases you could be entitled to damages and reimbursement of your Attorney’s Fees and expenses if the Association has discriminated against you or attempted to threaten or intimidate you.

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A., is a Florida Law Firm that represents individuals.  We do not represent Condo Associations, Homeowner Associations or any type of Community Associations purely as matter of choice.   Over the past 20 plus years we have helped Condo Owners,  Homeowners and Cooperative Owners  that have disputes or are  contemplating Litigation  or a Lawsuit  against their Association. We provide prospective clients with a *Free Case Evaluation.  You can call us and tell us about your case to see if we can help you. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida & Federal Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now (954) 966-3909!

 

* Free Case Evaluation is by telephone and does not include legal advice. Office consults with legal advice are available on a flat fee basis.

23
SEP
2013

Condo Mold & Water Damage: Who is Responsible?

As a Condo Attorney that represents individual Condo Owners in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Naples and many cities throughout Florida, the question I get asked the most is:

 Who is responsible for mold contamination and water damage in my condominium?

First, one must identify the source of the water intrusion that caused the damage and ultimately led to the mold growth.    More likely than not the water intrusion came from a common element like the roof, common plumbing lines  or even from a crack in an outer wall.    Another likely source could be from another condo unit, usually from above.    This is especially common in South Florida cities like Fort Lauderdale,  Aventura,  South Beach, Miami and Naples where many of the condo owners live out of state and keep these Florida Condominiums for seasonal use like snowbirds or simply as a good real estate investment.   The problem is that most of these units are not being monitored by their owners or the Condo Association.  Another problem is moisture driven mold that usually comes from vacant units that are in foreclosure and are not running any type of air conditioning.   The heat along with excessive moisture and humidity levels in these vacant units can affect your unit and you may not even know it until you start getting sick.

If the source of the water intrusion is from the Common Elements than the Association is responsible for the cause of the water intrusion.  Many Condominium Boards will try and shift the blame for a failed roof repair or faulty plumbing line to the contractor that did the work.   Unfortunately,  individual condo owners are not aware that the Condo Association owes them a Non-Delegable Duty to maintain these Common Elements and they cannot shift the responsibility to a third party in this type of situation.   This duty owed by the Association is contractual pursuant to the Declaration of Condominium and Statutory a set forth in the Florida Condominium Act in Section 718.   While most individuals read Section 718.111 to require the Individual Condo Owner to insure the Unit from paint in and the Association to insure from the drywall out, there is a considerable amount of confusion as to who is really responsible in the event the water intrusion and/or mold contamination was caused by the failure to maintain a common element.    Usually, if the mold or damage came from water that originated outside the unit, most insurance companies writing policies for individuals will deny the claim citing the source of the water intrusion as the reason for the denial.  This leaves the individual with no alternative but to look to the Association.   Moreover, even if the individual’s carrier does cover the interior damage, the source of the water intrusion, i.e., leaky roof, faulty plumbing, etc., must first be repaired before doing any work to the interior.

In an earlier Article on this topic I cautioned Condo Owners to be careful when hiring companies to inspect and/or assess for mold damage:

Prior to 2011 companies would come in to “assess” for mold and water damage, write up a huge estimate and then solicit you to hire them to do the repairs and mold remediation.    This clearly presented a conflict of interests.

The Law now prohibits a mold assessor from also performing the mold remediation work to avoid this inherent conflict of interests.   For many of these reasons, water damage and mold contamination cases can be difficult for owners to resolve on their own.   Condo Associations have big Law Firms and trained Property Managers advising them on these matters  and they use your money to pay for them.  If you are tired of  dealing with the matter on your own, you should seek out legal advice from an experienced Trial Attorney that  represents individual Condo Owners.

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A., is a Florida Law Firm that represents individual Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.   We provide prospective clients with a *Free Case Evaluation.  You can call us and tell us about your case to see if we can help you.  Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now  (954) 966-3909!

If you have water or mold damage in your condominium, townhouse or cooperative in Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Sunny Isles, Downtown Miami, Aventura, Davie, Dania Beach, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coral Springs, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Naples or anywhere in Florida be sure to contact us for a free case evaluation.

* FREE CASE EVALUATION IS BY TELEPHONE AND DOES NOT INCLUDE LEGAL ADVICE.  OFFICE CONSULTS WITH LEGAL ADVICE ARE AVAILABLE ON A FLAT FEE BASIS.

 

 

03
SEP
2013

Miami Condo Attorney Assisting Individual Owners

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As a Condo Attorney with offices near Downtown Miami, Brickel Avenue and South Beach Florida,  my practice is focused on representing individuals that have disputes with Condo Associations, Homeowner Associations and other Owners.    I am amazed at how many beautiful new luxury Condominium buildings have been successfully completed recently.   It seems like a great place for many of our young professionals to live, work and play.   With this large  influx of new Condominiums in Miami-Dade County,  there has also been a dramatic rise in the number of claims being made by individuals for personal injuries and for other types of disputes that individual owners and tenants are having with their Associations.

Many guests, visitors and owners at these new Condominiums are unfortunate enough to suffer some type of personal injury due to a slip and fall accident or an automobile accident.    Others have issues with the way the Association maintains the common elements causing water and mold damage to their Condo Unit.  Some Condo Associations have Pet Restrictions that are selectively enforced or worse that are unknowingly enforced against individuals with disabilities who should be entitled to an accommodation for an Assistance Animal like a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal.

If you have been seriously injured in an auto accident or other type of personal injury accident like a slip and fall near Downtown Miami, Brickel Avenue or South Beach Florida we will come to you.  An experienced Trial Attorney will come out to your location to personally meet with you and discuss your case.  Most Personal Injury Cases are handled  on a Contingency Fee basis.   That means that you do not pay us a fee unless we get a recovery for you.  For Condo Disputes other than personal injury cases we do offer a FREE CASE EVALUATION but those cases are all handled on an hourly billing basis as Florida Law and most Condominium Declarations provide for prevailing party attorney’s fees.

Florida Condominium Associations and Homeowner’s Associations keep Law Firms on retainer using the money you pay as Association Dues.  In the event you have a dispute with the Association these Law Firms are not there to advise you but to represent the interests of the Association.   Before trying to deal with Association Lawyers and experienced Property Managers you need to seek out the advice of an experienced Trial Attorney that represents the individual.

Call  a Condo Lawyer that represents owners

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.  Herb Milgrim is a tough trial attorney with over 20 years of experience. We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now (954) 966-3909!

 

* Free Case Evaluation is by telephone and does not include legal advice. Office consults with legal advice are available on a flat fee basis. Personal Injury Cases may be eligible for a Free Office Consultation and Representation on a Contingency Fee Basis.

30
AUG
2013

Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals in Condominiums and Homeowner Associations

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I have been getting a considerable amount of calls lately from Condo owners and Homeowners here in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Aventura, Naples, Sunny Isles and Boca Raton.  The majority of the calls are from individual owners concerned about various Condo Pet Rules and HOA Rules restricting their ability to keep pets as well as Assistance Animals such as Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals.  Many people have gone online looking for Service Dog Certification and obtained Emotional Support Dog Kits or tried to Register a Service Dog that was really an Emotional Support Animal.   Typically these Service Dog Certifications obtained online are red flags for the Condo and HOA Associations as neither the Fair Housing Act nor the Americans With Disabilities Act require any type of certification.

Unfortunately there have been some negative case decisions combined with the fact that many Condo Associations and HOA’s don’t really understand the laws dealing with Assistance Animals like Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs.   Many individuals use the wrong terminology referring to their animal as  a “Service Pet” or “Emotional Support Pet” or “Therapy Pet” causing the Association Attorney to question their request.  In addition, many Florida Condominiums and Homeowner Associations are attempting to restrict things like the size, weight and breed of the animal, as well as the  number of animals, and even where the owner can walk the animal on the Association Property.

While it is true that Associations can enact Rules and Restrictions concerning an individual’s use of the common elements and even their own unit, these Rules and Restrictions must not be unreasonable or arbitrarily enforced.  In addition, if the Board is enacting Rules and Restrictions on it’s own without a vote of ownership, the Rules and Restrictions must be within the scope of the Board’s Rule making authority and cannot contradict the Declaration of Condominium or a right that can be reasonably inferred therefrom.

One of the big problems with Condo Boards enacting Pet Restrictions and Condo Pet Rules  is that they do not apply to Assistance Animals such as Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals.  For example, while a Condo or HOA Board may restrict the weight of pets to 30 pounds they cannot tell a person with a disability that they cannot keep a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal that is over 30 pounds.  People with disabilities that require assistance animals or animals for emotional support are protected from such restrictions under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA).

Recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) came out with an advisory notice to help people understand the obligations of housing providers under the various Federal Acts including the FHAA and the ADA. The Notice came out on April 25, 2013 and is referred to as FHEO-2013-01. A copy of this Notice can be found on the HUD website or you can simply click this link to read it in it’s entirety.

The key points in the Notice are that while the ADA limits the definition of “service animal” to dogs that require specialized training, the FHAA allows accommodations for “assistance animals” to individuals with disabilities in housing.  An “assistance animal” is not a pet but rather an animal that provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.  In addition, it can be an animal that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of an individual’s disability.

Another key point made in the Notice is that Housing Providers (like Condo Associations and HOA’s)  must provide an exception to the Association’s pet restrictions to permit a person with a disability to “live and use an assistance animal(s) in all areas of the premises where persons are normally allowed to go, unless doing so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services.”  In addition, the “Breed, size and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal.”

Because housing providers are allowed to request that  people with disabilities, that are not readily apparent, submit “reliable documentation” of a disability and their disability-related need for an assistance animal, many Condo Associations and HOA’s use that as an opportunity to intimidate individuals with overly intrusive forms and requests for medical information.  Unfortunately, many individuals don’t know their rights nor are they familiar with the legal significance of the various terms and definitions. This usually results in a submission of material that often raises “red flags” for the Association and results in a denial of the individual’s request.

If you or somebody close to you  has an Assistance Animal such as a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal and your Condo Association or Homeowner Association has not made reasonable accommodations for you or worse, is trying to enforce Pet Restrictions that don’t apply to your animal, you need to contact us to discuss your rights.  In some cases you could be entitled to damages and reimbursement of your Attorney’s Fees and expenses.

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A., is a Florida Law Firm that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association. We provide prospective clients with a *Free Case Evaluation. You can call us and tell us about your case to see if we can help you. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Federal & Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now (954) 966-3909!

* Free Case Evaluation is by telephone and does not include legal advice. Office consults with legal advice are available on a flat fee basis.

12
JUL
2013

Mold and Water Damage and The Condo Association’s Duty to Maintain Common Elements

I am sitting here in my law office in Hollywood, near Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Aventura and the rain is pouring down. I figure with all the rain we are getting today it is probably a good day to make a visual inspection of my own home for signs of water intrusion. As a homeowner of a single family home I am the one ultimately responsible if water comes in through the roof or a crack in the foundation. Therefore it is important that I address my responsibilities. Unfortunately for many Florida condominium owners, Association Board Members and Property Management Companies charged with similar responsibilities are not as diligent.

As a Trial Attorney that helps individual condo owners, I get calls every day about various condo associations that have not maintained the common roof, walls, slab, or plumbing. In many of these cases the Condo Board or Property Management try to blame the problem on someone or something else or they simply try to ignore it altogether. In other cases they hire inexperienced, untrained workers to perform roof repairs and other work that should have been done by properly licensed and highly qualified experts in their field. In almost all of the cases the individual condo owner has seen their condo unit severely damaged due to water intrusion resulting from the Condo Association’s failure to maintain the common elements. In some of the more serious cases the condo units have become uninhabitable due to the presence of toxic mold.

According to the Florida Department of Health an increase in the levels of mold in the home can significantly increase the risk of potential health problems.    The Florida Department of Health  has come up with a guide for individuals to use in conducting their own inspection of their home:

  • Look for visible mold growth (it may look cottony, velvety, rough, or leathery and have different colors like white, gray, brown, black, yellow, or green). Mold often appears as a staining or fuzzy growth on furniture or building materials (walls, ceilings, or anything made of wood or paper). Look for signs of moisture or water damage (water leaks, standing water, water stains, condensation, etc.).
  • Check around air handling units (air conditioners, furnaces) for standing water. Routinely inspect the evaporator coils, liner surfaces, drain pans and drain lines.
  • Search areas where you notice mold odors. If you can smell an earthy or musty odor, you may have a mold problem.
  • If mold-allergic people have some of the symptoms listed above when in your home, you may have a mold problem.
If you decide to hire someone to come in to inspect or assess your condo unit for mold or water damage make sure that you hire a reputable company and check to see if they are properly licensed.   Prior to 2011 companies would come in to “assess” for mold and water damage, write up a huge estimate and then solicit you to hire them to do the repairs and mold remediation.    This clearly presented a conflict of interests. Now the law prohibits this type of practice.  Under Florida Law a mold assessor means any person who performs or directly supervises a mold assessment.  A mold remediator means any person who performs mold remediation.  Mold remediation is the removal, cleaning, sanitizing, demolition, or other treatment, including preventive activities, of mold or mold-contaminated matter.  According to Florida Statutes Section 468.8419 a person may not:
 (d) Perform or offer to perform any mold remediation to a structure on which the mold assessor or the mold assessor’s company provided a mold assessment within the last 12 months. This paragraph does not apply to a certified contractor who is classified in s. 489.105(3) as a Division I contractor. However, the department may adopt rules requiring that, if such contractor performs the mold assessment and offers to perform the mold remediation, the contract for mold remediation provided to the homeowner discloses that he or she has the right to request competitive bids.
Many individual condo owners in Dade, Broward  and Palm Beach County contact me to assist them in getting their Condo Board to take action.  Usually the first thing that needs to be done is to get the Condo Association to hire properly licensed contractors to repair the source of the water intrusion in accordance with current building codes and acceptable industry standards.   YOU CANNOT REPAIR THE INTERIOR OF THE UNIT OR REMEDIATE FOR MOLD UNTIL THE CONDITION CAUSING THE WATER INTRUSION IS FIRST REPAIRED.   Many Condo Association Boards try to argue that the individual unit owner is responsible for the repairs to the interior of the unit and the  contents that were damaged as a result of the Association’s failure to maintain the common elements.  While the Florida Statutes do require individual owners to provide insurance coverage for the interior of their unit that does not relieve the Association of it’s non-delegable duty to maintain the common elements.   In fact many claims that are submitted to the individual’s insurance carrier are denied because the source of the water damage originated from outside of the Condo Unit.

Over the past 24 years we have handled hundred of Condo Water Damage Cases.   In almost all of the cases dealing with Florida Condominiums,  the water intrusion or leaks usually originate from outside the unit and involve  the common elements.  The Condominium Declaration usually precludes individual owners from  hiring their own people to fix a leak or source of water intrusion coming from outside the Unit if it involves repairs to a common element.   Many individual condo owners that initially attempt to work with the  Association to resolve the matter on their own have encountered  difficulties trying to get the Association to  fix the problem.  Association Boards and Property Managers try to blame the cause on other owners or third parties like roofing companies and plumbers.

If you are tired of  dealing with the matter on your own, you should seek out legal advice from an experienced Trial Attorney that  represents condo owners. Your Association keeps expensive Florida Law Firms on Retainer so they can fight and delay your claim, and they pay these expensive Law Firms with your money. You should not be forced to deal with trained Property Managers and Attorneys without having someone fighting for you in your corner?

The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A., is a Florida Law Firm that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association.   We provide prospective clients with a *Free Case Evaluation.  You can call us and tell us about your case to see if we can help you.  Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now  (954) 966-3909!

If you have water or mold damage in your condominium, townhouse or cooperative in Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Sunny Isles, Downtown Miami, Aventura, Davie, Dania Beach, Cooper City, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Coral Springs, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, or anywhere in Florida be sure to contact us for a free case evaluation.

 

* FREE CASE EVALUATION IS BY TELEPHONE AND DOES NOT INCLUDE LEGAL ADVICE.  OFFICE CONSULTS WITH LEGAL ADVICE ARE AVAILABLE ON A FLAT FEE BASIS.