Family wins right to put up fence after battle with HOA [9-15-15]
Article Courtesy of Channel 6 News [Orlando]
By Louis Bolden
Published September 12, 2015
A local family has been allowed to put up fence for their son with Asperger’s syndrome, which is commonly associated with the autism spectrum, after a months-long battle with their homeowners association.
“To have this fence is a tremendous relief,” Shawn Seekings told News 6 investigator Louis Bolden. “Now our son has a place to play,” he said.
The HOA denied the original request.
“He has a very real disability that you can not see and he can’t have the one thing he really needs,” Kristin Seekings told Local 6 in June with tears in her eyes.
Esprit subdivision in St. Cloud does allow vinyl fences, in fact, they’re all over the neighborhood.
However, the Seekings’ home backs up to a conservation area. The HOA would only allow a metal fence that the Seekings thought was not safe.
“He’s a climber,” Kristin said about her 5-year-old. “He’s an escape artist, he is one who is not afraid of danger, so he is going to immediately try and scale that,” she said.
Shawn Seekings has an email chain with the HOA that started before they moved in.
When asking for an exception, he included a letter from his son’s neurologist saying his son has epilepsy, ADHD, and Asperger’s syndrome.
Weeks later, the family got a letter from the Melrose Management Partnership, which runs the HOA. Their request was “declined,” according to the letter.
The reason: It doesn’t meet the architectural review board guidelines.
“What that sounds like to me is a basic line, our documents say what they say, we’re not going to allow any exceptions,” attorney S. David Cooper said to News 6.
Cooper points to the Fair Housing Act, which requires housing providers make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.
He says the HOA is breaking the law.
“I would say they are violating the Fair Housing Act and they have to allow this fence,” he said.
But the HOA wouldn’t budge.
No one responded to calls and emails — so News 6 went to the company’s office in June.
“Are you concerned at all about a little boy who has autism?” News 6’s Louis Bolden asked.
“I’m going to ask you to go ahead and contact the attorney,” Katherine Montgomery said. Montgomery says she is a vice president with the company.
She also assured us the attorney would explain “the whole story.”
But when we called the attorney five times over three days, he never called back.
However after our investigation aired in June, the Seekings later got a letter from the HOA’s attorney approving the request, because the Seekings later provided another letter from their son’s physician, the letter states.
But Shawn Seekings believes shedding light on the issue helped.
“News 6 your coverage was fantastic, it really brought a lot of attention to our issue,” he said. “This fence really can make us live a lot easier and a lot happier.”