Sabal Palm Condominiums in Davie Florida’s Pine Island Ridge neighborhood does not allow dogs over twenty pounds. Deborah Fischer, a resident with multiple sclerosis, brought her heavier dog with her when she moved in November 2011. Fischer is wheelchair bound and uses her service dog to assist in daily activities.
The condo board requested documentation on the need for the dog and after allegedly not receiving it sued for removal of the dog.Fisher counter sued the board and the case went to trial. The judge called the condo board absurd” and “unreasonable”, allowing Fisher to keep the animal at the complex. On top of that, the association was fined $300,000 for violations of the Fair Housing Act.
The case is a reminder for boards to show restraint in enforcing regulations, especially when it involves a potential disability. Any bylaw changes or increases in enforcement should be handled by a competent lawyer.
Ensuring that association Director’s and Officer’s insurance is in place is also important. Not all policies are created equal, cheaper “packaged” coverage often exclude claims for injunctive relief (which would be a suit to be allowed to own a dog) and allegations of discrimination. The pricing of D&O policies pales in comparison to property insurance, for a few hundred dollars more an association can have full protection for it’s board members. Contact an expert directors and officers insurance broker to discuss better protecting your association.