I recently received a call from a woman residing at an over 55 Community like Century Village Condominium here in South Florida. She was being told by her Association to get rid of her dog or face legal action. Despite the fact that she had a documented disability and a letter from her Doctor attesting to her need for an emotional support animal, she believed that her Association would fight her request for a reasonable accommodation until she ran out of money.
Despite the above fears, she was brave enough to hire me to fight them. Unfortunately the letter prepared by her Doctor did not address all of the issues and only served to invite more unnecessary probing into her sensitive medical information. I was able to provide the necessary language for the Doctor to prepare an effective letter. The Doctor’s letter was attached to my strongly worded demand letter citing the relevant Florida and Federal Laws and advising the Association of the harsh penalties if they failed to make a reasonable accommodation for her disability. Instead of sending my letter only to the property manager or the board president, I addressed it to the association and sent copies to each of the individual board members. In past cases I have seen many Association Boards run like dictatorships with absolutely no communication on important matters. In this case the President wanted to fight the matter even though the Association was in a losing position. The Board President did not care how much it cost because it was not her money. Thankfully the other Board members read my letter and were able to persuade the President to do the right thing and grant the request.
Over the years I have helped many condo owners and their tenants obtain reasonable accommodations from their Associations. I have also heard many horror stories about Association Board’s harassing and intimidating owners into giving up their rights for fear of retaliation by the Board and other owners. I am sure many of you have read the story of Phyillis Schleifer and how the Century Village Association posted a notice with her name singling her out for all the other residents. She was lucky enough to get Broward County to fight her case for her. You can click here to read Britanny Wallman’s article in the the Sun Sentinel. Unfortunately not every case is accepted by the County. The County takes these cases based on HUD Complaints filed by consumers. Usually the Human Rights Section of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs will take on a select case as part of an agreement with the Federal Government that federal tax dollars be used to fund the case.
I have seen some Association Boards circumvent the voting requirements and enact pet “rules” that contravene the Declaration. I have seen property managers cause pet violation letters to be issued based upon unsupported complaints as payback for complaining about other unrelated problems. Many Association Attorneys question the veracity of claims for emotional support animals only to drive up billings.
If you or somebody you love has a service animal 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 most cases you could be entitled to damages, as well as, reimbursement of your Attorney’s Fees and expenses.
The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm, with offices near Fort Lauderdale and Miami, that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association. Don’t try to deal with the matter on your own. Seek out legal advice from an experienced Attorney that focuses on helping 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. Contact us now and find out if you have a case.