HOPE Complainants with Disabilities Fight For Their Rights

On August 4, 2015, Richard and Patricia Rogala filed a fair housing complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Broward County Human Rights Section against Riverside North Apartment, Inc. HOPE represented the Rogalas in this complaint. The complaint alleged that the Riverside North board of directors denied the Rogalas’ reasonable accommodation request for an assigned parking space nearest to their apartment. Mr. Rogala requires such a parking space because his disability makes walking difficult. The federal Fair Housing Act and the Broward County Human Rights Code of Ordinances make it illegal to deny reasonable accommodation requests made by people with disabilities who need them.

The Rogalas entered into a conciliation agreement with Riverside North Apartment, Inc. to resolve the complaint on March 4, 2016. The agreement stipulated that Riverside North’s board must provide the assigned parking space to Mr. Rogala that he had requested, and that the board must pay the Rogalas $1,669.12 as a reimbursement for their legal expenses. The agreement also required that all agents, employees, officers and board members who handle reasonable accommodation requests on behalf of Riverside North obtain fair housing training from the Broward County Human Rights Section, and Riverside must certify compliance with the training requirement within 190 days of the agreement.

Alan Wintner is another person with a disability who filed a HUD housing discrimination complaint alleging that his request for an accommodation was denied. In June 2015, Mr. Wintner reportedly asked Sunrise Lakes Condominium Phase 4, Inc. 2 for permission to allow an emotional support animal to live with him. Soon after, he sent Sunrise Lakes a letter from his doctor, an explanation of the relationship between his dog and his disability, and a description of how the dog was necessary for him to enjoy his home. Mr. Wintner provided additional data in response to Sunrise Lakes’ multiple requests for information.

On or about July 15, 2015, Sunrise Lakes sent Mr. Wintner a denial letter. Around the end of August 2015, Mr. Wintner sent another letter from his doctor to Sunrise Lakes. On September 20, 2015, Sunrise Lakes filed a petition for arbitration against him because of his emotional support animal. Mr. Wintner fought back by asking HOPE to represent him with his HUD/Broward County complaint against Sunrise Lakes which he filed on November 4, 2015. Mr. Wintner signed a conciliation agreement with Sunrise Lakes on February 26, 2016.

The agreement indicated that Mr. Wintner is allowed to keep his dog with the understanding that he must license and register the dog under all applicable state, county and municipal requirements; will make certain that the dog has all required immunizations and flea/tick treatments; will keep the dog leashed and under control when in the development’s common areas; must control the dog’s barking; bear responsibility for any damage to the common areas that the dog perpetrates; clean up after the dog; and provide Sunset Lakes with notification of his intent to replace the dog should the animal die and he chooses to replace it. The agreement also requires Sunrise Lakes to waive all fines assessed with regard to Mr. Wintner’s ownership of this animal. Sunset Lakes must also inform its agents and employees responsible for compliance with the agreement of its stipulations within thirty days of the effective date of the agreement.

HOPE congratulates the Rogalas and Mr. Wintner on fighting for, and winning, the reasonable accommodations to which they are entitled under the law.