Florida woman with banished service dog gets $300,000 condo
By Carli Teproff 28 May 2014
Calling the behavior of a Davie condominium association “absurd” and
“unreasonable,” a federal judge has ordered a Davie condominium to
allow a disabled resident to keep her service dog.
The two-year dispute will carry a hefty price tag for the Sabal Palm
Deborah Fischer, a retired Broward art teacher who was diagnosed with
multiple sclerosis in 2000, was sued by Sabal Palm Condominiums after
her dog, Sorenson, moved into her apartment in November 2011. Fischer,
who uses a wheelchair and has limited use of her arms and hands, needs
Sorenson to pick things, up, open and close doors and retrieve items
from counter tops.
“Sabal Palm got it exactly — and unreasonably — wrong,” U.S. District
Judge Scola wrote in his order. “This is not just common sense — though
it is most certainly that.”
The condominium complex in Davie’s Pine Island Ridge neighborhood does
not allow pets over 20 pounds and demanded medical records and other
information to prove that Fischer needed Sorenson — a 5-year-old
Labrador-golden retriever mix — to help her. Saying Fischer didn’t
provide the proper documentation, the condo association sued, said the
woman’s attorney, Matthew Dietz of Miami.
Fischer, along with her husband, Larry, counter-sued, saying the condo
board’s demands violated the federal Fair Housing Act, or FHA.
Scola agreed with Fischer, and gave the condo board a serious verbal
lashing in his 30-page order.
That the condo association “turned to the courts to resolve what should
have been an easy decision is a sad commentary on the litigious nature
of our society,” Scola wrote in a March 19 order. “And it does a
disservice to people like Deborah who actually are disabled and have a
legitimate need for a service dog as an accommodation under the FHA.”
In their arguments, board members suggested that, even if Fischer
needed a service dog, she could have gotten by with an animal that did
not weigh more than the Sabal Palm’s 20-pount limit. But, Scola wrote,
such a dog would not have been able to meet Fishcer’s needs. Sorenson,
the judge ruled, was a “reasonable accommodation” to Sabal Palm’s
“That a blind person may already have a cane, or that he or she could
use a cane instead of a dog in no way prevents the blind person from
also obtaining a seeing-eye dog as a reasonable accommodation under the
FHA,” Scola wrote. “A contrary result is absurd.”
After Scola ruled in the Fischers’ favor, Dietz said he negotiated the
$300,000 settlement with the attorney representing Sabal Palm, Karen
Nissen did not return calls or an e-mail Tuesday. David Rosinsky, the
attorney representing Marvin Silvergold, who was the board president at
the time and was sued individually, said the case was “amicably
resolved.” A summary judgment against Christopher Trapani, who was the
attorney of the association at the time, was denied. Trapani could not
be reached for comment.
Fischer said the dispute started in November 2011, when she brought
Sorenson home after getting him from Canine Companions for
Independence, a nonprofit group that provides service dogs for people
with disabilities. She had sent the complex’s association a letter
notifying them that she would be getting a service dog. For five
months, Fischer went back and forth with the association.
“I have an obvious disability,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe how
hard they were making it.”
Fischer said Sorenson quickly became an important part of her life. He
helped her do things she couldn’t do for herself — such as turning the
lights in her apartment on and off, picking up TV remotes from coffee
tables or counters, or scooping up keys from the floor. The retriever
allowed her to perform routine tasks without bothering her husband.
In all, Sorenson can recognize 40 separate commands, Fischer said.
“He has made my life so much better,” she said.
But as the litigation dragged on in court, Fischer said, the drama
began to overwhelm her. She had lived in the complex for more than a
dozen years, and, suddenly, people she had lived near for years were
adverse parties to a lawsuit.
“It was very difficult to deal with,” she said.
Fischer’s lawyer said the facts were clear: “This is one of the worst
cases like this that I’ve seen,” said Dietz, who specializes in civil
rights and disability lawsuits. “It is obvious that the service dog
would help her.”
Dietz said a new board has since been elected and the rules have
changed. He hopes the case will help others become more sensitve to the
needs of disabled people.
Fischer agreed, saying she hopes no one has to go through what she went
“I am finally free of the questions, investigations and litigation,”
she said. “We are at the point where we can have some peace of mind and
finally move forward.”
judgment The court judgment is online.
The condo president was found to be personally libel for contributing
to a Fair Housing Act violation. The judge explained that in Florida,
individual board members and property managers can be held personally
responsible for commiting or contributing to a Fair Housing Act
top Ban on kids
playing football = housing discrimination lawsuit against Virginia HOA blog.tarleyrobinson.com/
Originally posted: 26 Oct 2010
Boards of Directors are empowered by statute in Virginia and often
times by the governing documents of the community association to enact
rules and regulations concerning common areas, common elements,
recreational facilities or other areas of association
responsibility. Rules related to the use of common areas or
common elements and recreational facilities should be based on concerns
about safety, sanitation and nuisance. In certain instances a
Board of Directors may want to enact a rule to address the activities
of children – limiting their pool time, forbidding children under a
certain age from using recreational facilities or prohibiting certain
activities on common areas or elements. Be careful, the rule you
enact may violate the federal and state Fair Housing Act.
According to a Complaint filed against a Chesapeake condominium
association, the association had a “Group Sports Activity” rule that
banned organized sports activities in the common areas without approval
of the board. Concerns were raised whether this rule banned activities
such as a parent and child passing a football.The Commonwealth of
Virginia’s Fair Housing Board filed a housing discrimination lawsuit
against Cedarwood Condominium Association, a Chesapeake condominium
association. There have not been many of these lawsuits.
So the board “embarked on an 18-month examination of the [rule].”
People complained about children playing in the common area and meeting
minutes stated “that many residents were concerned with children
playing within the community.” On the other hand, “there were no
complaints . . . of adults playing . . . in common areas.”
According to the Complaint, the board then banned any activity that
included tossing a ball, arrow, dart or Frisbee in the common area. As
could be expected, kids continued to play. One family received notice
of a violation and the required $50 fine. Then a few other families
received fines because their kids were playing football in the common
area. In fact, according to the Complaint, “50% of the families with
children” received violations.
Apparently, these families complained to the Fair Housing Board which
conducted an investigation. The Fair Housing Board alleged that the
association violated the Virginia Code prohibiting housing
discrimination based upon familial status. The Fair Housing Board filed
the lawsuit after efforts to settle the issue failed through mediation.
UPDATE: A final order dismissing the case was entered in
Have your experienced association attorney review the rules for your
association, especially if you have rules that only address the
behaviors of children in the neighborhood, or limit their use of the
common areas, common elements or recreational facilities. Not all
rules regarding children are discriminatory per se. For example, rules
that are based on safety and health issues may not be determined to be
discriminatory, but if you use safety or health reasons without any
basis, your rule may likely be discriminatory.
top TriBeCa condo board discriminates against Chinese resident, State says DNAinfo
27 November 2015
Liu stands near her 165 Hudson Street building, which she claims she's
being forced out of because she's Chinese.
A TriBeCa condo board has barraged one of its residents with racist
comments, unlawfully trying to push her out of the building because she
is Chinese, according to a lawsuit filed by the state.
Members of the board of TriBeCa's Spice Lofthouse, a 6-story building
of multimillion-dollar apartments at 165 Hudson St., have made repeated
"disparaging and discriminatory" comments to Hanying Liu, according to
the suit filed by the New York State Division of Human Rights on behalf
of Liu on Nov. 12.
Board members have told Liu, the only Asian resident of the 15-unit
building, that Chinese people "'always lie" and "like to break the
rules" and only have Chinese friends, according to the suit.
Some members also told Liu, “'you Chinese get out of here'” and have
“interrogated” Chinese, Asian and other minority guests of hers, the
Liu, 46, a business consultant who is a Chinese native, told DNAinfo
New York that the situation in her building has been "horrible."
"They are trying to push me and my daughter from our home," she said.
"They only want you here if you are white—they only tolerated me before
because my fiance was white and he worked on Wall Street.
"They are worse than the communists in China—they police me and my
Despite the fact that Liu bought her two-bedroom apartment for $1
million in 2011 and has always made “timely payments,” the board
refused to approve her full ownership after her ex-fiance and co-owner,
who is white, moved out in 2014, the suit claims.
The board was "willful, wanton and malicious” when it rejected her
attempt to transfer her ex-fiance's shares into her name, the suit
says. Liu was never given an explanation for why her application was
rejected by the board—a rejection pushed through “knowingly and
intentionally” because of her race, the suit says.
Liu is suing to gain full control of the apartment and is seeking
A request for comment from the Spice Lofthouse management was not
According to property listings, recent apartments in the 1910 building
have sold for more than $2 million.