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Condo Association’s Denial of Gate Access Pass to 100-Year-Old Resident Draws Negative TV News Coverage in South Florida

My colleague Laura Manning-Hudson wrote about a dispute involving pet chickens that received unwanted TV news coverage for a Boca Raton HOA in her last blog post.  To help illustrate just how common such negative media coverage has become for community associations that make questionable decisions, my latest post just a couple of weeks later also focuses on another report by a local South Florida station involving disputed community association actions.

The latest story is on a Hollywood, Fla., condominium association’s decision to deny a 100-year-old resident a gate access pass decal for her to use when she is getting a ride home. The report by 7 News (WSVN-FOX) in South Florida features an interview with Vangie Commeau, who lives at the Carriage Hills Condominium and is 100 years old. She tells the station’s Patrick Fraser that earlier this year the property cancelled the manned security guard at its entrance gate in favor of an automatic scanner that reads bar codes on window-sticker decals on residents’ vehicles to open the gate.

wsvn-logoBecause Commeau does not own or drive a vehicle, she did not receive a decal from the association. She tells the reporter that she brought it to their attention, but the association responded by declining to issue her a gate access decal pass.

This creates a burden for Commeau when one of her friends takes her to the doctor or to one of her monthly lunches with their friends, as she is unable to get their vehicle in through the residents’ gate when they return. She was told to use the guest lane and buzz one of her neighbors to let her in, but she notes that forces her to make an appointment with a neighbor a day ahead.

“I hate to bother people when it’s something stupid,” says Ms. Commeau.

She suggests a simple solution: The association should give her a card with the bar code decal that she could display for the scanner to open the automatic gate in whichever car she is in.

However, the Carriage Hills board declined to give her the decal card. The report does not clarify why, but one can presume it is because the system is intended to link each individual decal to a specific vehicle for security and monitoring purposes.

The station’s legal expert opines that the association is legally obligated to come up with a reasonable accommodation for Commeau, and given the circumstances and documentation, I would agree. While the association presumably wishes to maintain its uniform policy of only issuing decals that are assigned to specific resident vehicles for security purposes, some flexibility in a case such as this to make an accommodation for Commeau would be an advisable decision.

The association’s actions may also be considered as unreasonable restrictions upon a resident’s right of access to the community given that the residents without their own vehicles appear to be unable to enter the community without depending upon a neighbor to grant them access. This could be compared to refusing to provide some residents with a key or pass code to enter the front door of a residential apartment or condominium building.

In this case, the board of directors could meet and consider whether the circumstances merit the granting of an accommodation to Commeau for a decal card.

Fraser, the reporter, even seems perplexed that the association failed to reconsider its decision. He notes that he and the legal expert have been doing these reports for the last 23 years, and they have never come across a case such as this in which they just don’t get it.

“A 100-year-old wants a decal, just give it to her,” he concludes.

Click here to watch the complete report in the station’s website, as I am sure many people will be doing for the foreseeable future.

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