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Velez v. Coral Gate West Condominium Association, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

June 21, 2019

KATIUSKA VELEZ, individually, and as parent and guardian for BRANDON VELEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CORAL GATE WEST CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DARRIN P. GAYLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. [ECF No. 9]. The Court has reviewed the Motion, the record, and applicable law and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         In this action, Katiuska Velez (“Plaintiff”), individually and as parent and guardian for Brandon Velez (“Brandon”), alleges that Coral Gate West Condominium Association, Inc. (“Defendant”) evicted her and her son because of his disability and failed to make reasonable accommodations for his disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f).

         I. Allegations in the Complaint

         On July 20, 2014, Plaintiff and Brandon moved into a rental apartment at Coral Gate West Condominium. [ECF No. 1 at ¶ 8]. Brandon is a 23-year-old man with an intellectual disability, autism, and bi-polar disorder and is therefore considered “handicapped” under 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h). Id. at ¶ 4. When Plaintiff first moved into the apartment, she asked for an accommodation in the form of a parking space for her mother who would come to watch Brandon while Plaintiff was at work. Id. at ¶ 9. Throughout their tenancy, Defendant's property manager informed Plaintiff that Brandon was not allowed in the hallways or permitted to stand by the elevators because “people thought that Brandon looked weird and that he may scare people.” Id. at ¶ 16. Defendant's property manager required that Plaintiff install locks in their apartment to prevent Brandon from wandering the halls. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff complied and installed a padlock on the interior of the door. Id.

         Between July 2015 and July 2016, Brandon had three behavioral incidents because of his disability. [ECF No. 1 at ¶ 11]. In the first, Brandon was by the pool playing with a relative and detached a water fountain from the wall. Id. at ¶ 12. In the second, Brandon entered the unlocked apartment of another resident, mistaking this resident for a friend. Id. at ¶ 13. In the third, while he was off of his medications, Brandon punched a window in the laundry room. Id. at ¶ 14. Despite these incidences, Defendant renewed her lease in July 2016. Id. at ¶ 15.

         On December 19, 2016, a security camera recorded Brandon locking himself in the public laundry room and masturbating in front of a washing machine. Id. at ¶ 17. The following day, Defendant issued a formal notice to vacate the unit. Plaintiff pleaded that she and Brandon were good tenants and explained how difficult it would be for her and Brandon to relocate in such little time. [ECF No. 1 at ¶ 25].

         On December 28, 2016, Brandon's disability support coordinator with the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Sujay Rodriguez (“Mr. Rodriguez”), went to Coral Gate as a representative of both Brandon and the Florida Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) to request a reasonable accommodation due to Brandon's disabilities. Id. at ¶ 31. Mr. Rodriguez informed Defendant's property manager that they were working on getting Brandon therapy to correct his behavior. Id. In response, Defendant's property manager denied that Brandon's behavior in the laundry room had anything to do with his disabilities and stated that she was “scared he would rape or molest someone in the complex.” Id.

         On December 30, 2016, ten days after the incident in the laundry room, Defendant issued a formal notice evicting Plaintiff and Brandon because Brandon “took apart a piece of one of the washing machines . . . and practiced inappropriate behavior while in the laundry room.” Id. at ¶ 33. Plaintiff alleges that she was forced to move into a more expensive apartment and ultimately had to place Brandon in a group home.

         II. Procedural Background

         On November 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint (“the Complaint”) against Defendant setting forth claims under the FHA for (1) Disparate Treatment-Denying or Making a Dwelling Unavailable in Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1) and (2) Failure to Reasonably Accommodate in Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3). [ECF No. 1]. Defendant has moved to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff fails to state a claim because there was no discriminatory animus involved in the decision to evict Plaintiff and because Brandon's behavior was a direct threat to other residents. [ECF No.9 at ¶ 4].

         ANALYSIS

         I. ...


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