Federal Court Holds Condo Association Went Beyond Reasonable Inquiry into Owner's Disability

A Florida federal court recently held against a condominium association for violating federal and State law when it refused to grant an accommodation for an owner with an emotional support animal. The Association is a condominium association located in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The Association rules and regulations limit all pets to a maximum weight of 25 pounds. Owner Bhogaita acquired a dog weighing more than 25 pounds. The Association sent Bhogaita a notice demanding that Bhogaita remove the dog. Bhogaita responded by sending a note from his doctor, which stated that Bhogaita suffered from chronic anxiety brought on by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that the doctor had prescribed an emotional support animal to help Bhogaita cope with his anxiety. The Association subsequently sent written requests for additional information pertaining to Bhogaita’s mental impairment and treatment he had received, and demanded that the dog be removed. Bhogaita sued the Association, claiming it violated the Fair Housing Act and corresponding State law by denying his requested accommodation.

In Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condominium Association, Inc., 2012 WL 6562766 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 17, 2012),the Court held that the Association violated the Fair Housing Act when it requested additional documentation after it received the letters from Bhogaita’s physician. The Court specifically found that the Association’s requests for detailed information concerning Bhogaita’s treatment clearly went beyond the scope of a reasonable inquiry under the FHA, effectively denying the requested accommodation.

Association managers and board members should note that associations are not required to accommodate all requests without question; the law does provide them to conduct a meaningful review. For example, an association can request reliable disability information, such as a letter from a doctor. In most cases, however, medical records or detailed information about the nature of the disability is not necessary and a request for this information can be considered unreasonable.

Chaired by Joshua D. Krut, our Community Association, Club and Resort Group provides a myriad of legal services to condominium associations, homeowners’ associations, cooperatives, timeshares, equity clubs, owners’ ad hoc committees and hotel condominiums. The Group advises Boards of Directors and Association Managers regarding corporate governance matters and document interpretation and rule enforcement, represents associations in the collection of delinquent maintenance payments, and drafts and negotiates vendor and service contracts on behalf of our clients. The Group also works with our Real Estate Group and Private Land and Zoning Practice Group on issues related to land use, and with members of our Litigation Division for foreclosure and complex litigation.

Categories: LitigationCondominium AssociationsHomeowners' Associations
Tags: Condos and HOAsJamie A. ColeEdward G. GuedesJoshua D. KrutMichael S. PopokFort Lauderdale Condominium Association AttorneysMiami Condominium Association AttorneysSouth Florida Condominium Association AttorneysFort Lauderdale Homeowners' Association AttorneysMiami Homeowners' Association AttorneysSouth Florida Homeowners' Association AttorneysFort Lauderdale LitigatorsMiami LitigatorsSouth Florida LitigatorsFlorida Community Association LawFlorida Condo Association LawFlorida Litigation AttorneysMiami Litigation Attorney