Tied to HOA Gate: HOA Violations Gone Haywire. I want to share an email I received from a valiant HOA member who literally tied herself to a gate in defense of the right to protect her dog. Hopefully, her experience will assist other HOA members confronting arbitrary and vindictive violations.
Thank you for your support. It was an unbelievable battle, and I still have many wounds. My ‘fight for justice’ has affected my personal and public life negatively. It all began when I had a serious fall out of my wheelchair on 1-27-08. As I was trying to open the door while holding my young Lhasa Apso dog back, so that he wouldn’t get out the door, I literally "fell on my face." I went to the emergency room at Blake Medical Center for emergency services, which included X Rays of my head and facial bones. The cost of that visit was $948.00 and I soon had a black eye and the right side of my face was swollen and bruised from my hairline to my chin.
Needless to say, my co-owner Jim was upset. I had previously injured myself in other similar instances. He decided to "fix the problem," and I told him that I was allowed to make my home accessible through ADA. Jim installed a dog gate in the patio area to keep the dogs safe and secured. They could easily access the patio by a doggy door in the living room.
Everyone knew that I did not personally do the work and install the gate, but I was given a "Violation" in my name only. I was ordered to take the gate down by an attorney who represents our management company and three Board of Directors members. I am treasurer of the board and knew nothing about the intention to issue me this violation; another director hadn’t been consulted either. I quickly learned that ADA covers public property only. HUD manages private property. I contacted the Florida Commission on Human Relations. I felt they were showing me blatant discrimination.
I was a coordinator of the Peer program at the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living, MCIL, before I moved to Florida in 2001. I was familiar with the rights of People with Disabilities, PWDs, through ADA, etc. Norm Coleman was the mayor of Saint Paul, MN when I was about to move. I was on the Mayors Advisory Committee for PWDs since 1994: he is now a MN Senator. As I was preparing to move, Mayor Norm Coleman proclaimed Feb 21, 2001 "Linda Lattin Day" for all my work and contributions that I gave to all people in the city. I was very honored: I thought you had to be dead to have a day dedicated to you!
In an unbelievable amount of emails from the board ordering me to take the gate down, the president said: "There is no way this is a case of discrimination. If anyone should feel harassed it is Ellen and I who keep getting the ADA thrown in our faces. All you had to do is consult the board. And if we let board members go ahead and do things without following procedure, what does that say to the rest of the community? Procedures still need to be followed, even by people with disabilities. You have gone ahead and had work done on your unit without getting approval (that probably would have been if all the facts and reasons had been given) and then cried discrimination. It is what gives people with disabilities a bad name."
On 6-25-08 the Respondents: three board of directors & the management company agreed to "ensure to the best of its ability, that its policies, performance and conduct shall continue to demonstrate a firm commitment to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, as amended Sections 760.20-37, Florida Statutes, (2005) and the Civil Rights Act of the United States (42 U.S.C. 1981 and 1982 and 3601 et. seq.)
They "agreed that Board members, employees, agents and representatives shall continue to deal in an equal and impartial manner, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or familial status, with all persons making inquiry for rental and/or purchase, and with any buyers, prospective buyers, tenants, prospective tenants, application for rental or purchase, and all persons enjoying, or seeking to enjoy residency and services and privileges afforded therewith."
"It is understood that this agreement does not constitute a judgment on the part of the Commission that did nor did not violate the Fair Housing Act of 1983, as amended, Section 760.20-37, Florida Statutes (2002). The Commission does not waive its rights to process any additional complaints against the Respondents, including a complaint filed by a member of the Commission."
"Respondent agrees to waive and release any and all claims against the Complainant with respect to any matters which were or might have been alleged in the complaint filed with the Commission or with the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and agree not to institute a lawsuit based on the issues alleged in these complaints under any applicable ordinance or statute in any court of law appropriate jurisdiction as to the date of this Agreement." and so on, and so on.
Their reason for giving me the violation was "because she didn’t ask."
The "Conciliation Agreement" includes "Complainant agrees to refrain from making false, defamatory, or disparaging comments, in any manner or medium, including the painting of messages on her vehicle, about the Condominium Association, Inc.; any member of it’s Board of Directors; Condominium Management Services, Inc.; or any employee of the Condominium Management Services, Inc. regarding the issues raised in her complaint, or the issues that could have been raised in her complaint."
I have quoted the "Conciliation Agreement; FCHR No.: 28-92497, HUD No. 04-08-0807-8 directly. I am not making false, defamatory, or disparaging comments.
Ultimately I wish I could afford to buy a home elsewhere and leave the respondents in my dust, but I live on my SSDI, which is below the poverty level, and I feel lucky to have a home!
Thank you for your kind words and thoughts.
Sunshine & Smiles,
Linda L. Lattin