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HUD Charges Fla. HOA with Disability Discrimination

A condo owner helped remove debris following 9/11 and needs to leave shoes outside due to a respiratory condition. HUD alleges the condo board turned down his request.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it charged The Links South a Ponce Inlet, Florida, condominium association with discrimination because it denied a reasonable accommodation request based on the condo owner’s disability.

Because of the husband’s respiratory disabilities, a couple asked for permission to keep their shoes outside their unit in order to limit exposure to outdoor allergens, chemicals or pollutants inside their home. The case came to HUD’s attention after the couple filed a complaint of housing discrimination. HUD posted the full charge online.

The husband, a retired New York City sanitation superintendent, spent more than 400 days removing debris from the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11 World Trade Center disaster. As a result of that work, he was diagnosed with upper respiratory disabilities and other medical conditions certified for coverage under the World Trade Center Health Program.

HUD’s charge alleges that the condominium community’s homeowner association (HOA) refused the couple’s request to keep their shoes outside due to a disability. It further alleges that the couple provided medical documentation. The husband’s physician advised of the need to keep their home free from outdoor allergens, chemicals, or pollutants. Nevertheless, HUD claims, the HOA turned down the couple’s accommodation request and made repeated demands for further documentation.

“It is critically important that individuals with disabilities be granted the reasonable accommodations they need to use and enjoy the place they call home,” says Jeanine Worden, HUD’s acting assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. “When a person with a disability requests a reasonable accommodation, a small exception or modification to a housing provider’s rules can make a big difference in the health and well-being of an individual with a disability.”

HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge. If the administrative law judge finds that discrimination has occurred, the judge may award damages to the complainants for their losses that have resulted from the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties.

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