Firm partner Michael E. Chapnick authored an article that appeared as a “Board of Contributors” guest column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which was titled “Ruling Illustrates Unpredictability of Fair Housing Litigation for Associations,” focuses on a recent ruling by the First District Court of Appeal that highlights the unpredictable nature of Fair Housing Act litigation for unwary associations. Michael’s article reads:
The decision came in the case of Harbour Pointe of Perdido Key Condominium Association v. Henkel, which originated from a housing discrimination complaint filed by James Henkel with the Florida Commission on Human Relations pursuant to the Fair Housing Act. Henkel alleged that the association committed discriminatory housing practices by making modifications to the closing pressure of doors that rendered many of the common areas at his condominium inaccessible to him.
The administrative law judge with the Division of Administrative Hearings presiding over the case concluded that Henkel had failed to establish that the association discriminated against him based on his handicap, but the commission disagreed with the ALJ’s conclusions of law and ruled against the association.
In the association’s subsequent appeal before the First DCA, the majority found that the commission erred in its determination that the association had committed discriminatory housing practices by allegedly making modifications to the opening pressures of doors that rendered them noncompliant with the Fair Housing Act’s standards. The two judges concluded that the ALJ properly found that Henkel had not proven a prima facie case of discrimination because the association did not design or construct the condominium. They also ruled that the evidence was insufficient to show that the association had modified the doors, as its oversight of the property had recently been transferred from the original developer.
A concurring opinion states: ” … the respondent did not design or construct Mr. Henkel’s building, nor make any alterations to the disputed door pressures after assuming ownership of the building.” It goes on to find that evidence indicated the door pressures were not adjustable.