Condo: Couple, newborn can stay
By Joe Kollin - Staff Writer 
June 22, 2002
Article Courtesy of Sun-Sentinel News

PEMBROKE PINES -- A young couple won’t be forced to choose between their home and their baby, after all.

The board of directors of the Hollybrook Golf & Tennis Club in Pembroke Pines on Friday agreed to let the couple stay with their baby, because they had purchased their condo four years before the complex officially became a seniors-only facility.

“In a way I feel good,” said Daniel Cruz, 27. “It means we don’t have to move. It definitely takes a big weight off my shoulders. But it makes us uncomfortable because they did make us go through all this, hiring an attorney and all. But I’m just glad we can stay.”

Cruz and his wife, Elizabeth, 24, bought their apartment in 1998 when there were no age restrictions. But late last year, owners voted to become a seniors-only community. The Cruzes were grandfathered in.

But eight weeks ago, they became parents of their first child, Megan —

Daniel Cruz, his wife, Elizabeth, and their newborn, Megan, do not have to move from their condo. (Sun-Sentinel/Robert Mayer)
who, according to the new rules, was not allowed to live in the condo.

Therefore, the board told the Cruzes, the family would have to move out.

The Cruzes didn’t want to leave, partly for financial reasons, partly because they loved their retiree neighbors and partly because they said they loved the amenities, including the two golf courses, lighted tennis courts and clubhouse. 

They also liked having two baby sitters on the grounds. Both their parents live separately in the sprawling 1,902-apartment complex, which meant Megan would have remained in Hollybrook all day long even if the working couple had been forced to move.

Gary Poliakoff, the attorney for the condo board, said the directors allowed the baby to stay after he met with them and discussed their options.

“They decided they should grandfather [the whole family] in because they were residents prior to the enactment of the covenants [that made the complex a senior community] and that they are in a class that is entitled to stay.” 

Poliakoff said the problem was unique because Congress, when it passed the Fair Housing Act in 1988, let communities ban young people. Almost all condos that considered themselves adults-only amended their documents right away. Hollybrook didn’t. 

“For 12 years it was an ‘open community,’” he said. “It wasn’t until February that they amended their covenants. It’s not too often you’ll find it. This is the first I’ve found.” 

Officials couldn’t estimate the number of babies in Hollybrook that will be grandfathered in by this decision.

The Cruzes’ attorney, Leonardo Renaud of Miami, said he was ready to haul the association into court if the board had decided differently. 

“My position was that the Cruzes stayed or we would file a lawsuit on Monday,” he said. “I asked [Poliakoff] to call me after the board meeting so I would know how to spend my weekend. He called and I’m thrilled that they get to stay.”

The Broward County Human Rights Commission on June 10 also ordered an investigation to determine if Hollybrook was violating the county’s anti-discrimination law.

The ruling won’t affect the condo’s status as an adult community, Poliakoff said. The board, at the meeting, reaffirmed its intent to remain an adult community, banning anyone under 55 from living in a unit. The condo also prohibits anyone under 18 from living in an apartment for more than six months.

Pines condo turns adults-only, then targets couple with new baby

By Joe Kollin - Staff Writer 
June 10, 2002
Article Courtesy of Sun-Sentinel News

PEMBROKE PINES · Songwriter George Whiting wasn't living in a South Florida condominium when he wrote My Blue Heaven, a 1923 love song that says, "… and baby makes three."

Had he been here, he would have had to write, "… and baby makes zero."

Just ask Daniel Cruz, 27, and Elizabeth Cruz, 24, condo owners at the sprawling Hollybrook Golf & Tennis Club.

They bought their unit for $49,500 in 1998 when they were newlyweds. They loved the amenities and the fact their mothers lived in the complex. It meant that when the time came, there would be two nearby babysitters.

Though Hollybrook was known as a haven for active retirees, it had no age restrictions. As original owners died, their heirs sought to unload the apartments at low prices, which lured younger couples.

Two years later, on Feb. 4, 2000, the complex voted to become an adult-only community. Current residents were grandfathered in, but babies were not.

Violation of rules

Six weeks ago, Elizabeth Cruz gave birth to Megan, their first child. Now the association that runs the 1,902-apartment complex is telling them that either the baby must go or they must go.

"Why sell an apartment to a young couple that just got married, put them through credit and background checks and expect them not to have babies?" Daniel Cruz said. "That's what young couples do."

Last week the Cruzes received a letter from the association telling them that they were in violation of the rules because a child under 18 was living with them.

Allowing the child to remain, the letter said, "compromises Hollybrook's status as an over-55 community." Federal law requires at least 80 percent of the units in a complex to have at least one resident over 55 to be considered adult-only.

"We'll give them 60 or 90 days to find a place to live," association President Carl Shechter said. "If they don't, we'll turn it over to our attorneys to get a court order."

The Cruzes' attorney, Leonardo Renaud, said he might try to fight the order, although he would prefer to resolve the situation amicably. "They are owners, not renters. It is callous," he said. Their daughter is just born and they're telling them to move."

But the board's attorney, Gary Poliakoff of Fort Lauderdale, said a Jan. 3 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court makes it unlikely the Cruzes could win. The unanimous, landmark ruling upheld the right of condo associations to change the rules even if they have a negative impact on some owners. A rule change doesn't harm anyone's rights, the court said, because condo owners are aware rules can be changed.

"The Supreme Court has said that when the covenants are amended properly, it is binding on all owners, even those who bought with the expectation of having children," Poliakoff said.

Although the Cruzes dispute the legality of the vote that resulted in the age restriction, Shechter said everything was proper.

"Eighty-three percent of the people voted in favor of banning everyone under 55, and everyone had the opportunity to vote," he said.

"If you have a child before the effective date, the child is grandfathered in," Shechter said. "Any child coming in later, by birth or any reason, can't live here permanently."

'Our little paradise'

The Cruzes call the situation ridiculous.

"Both grandmas live here, and they're our sitters, so the baby will be here anyway," said Daniel, a file clerk for a law firm who hopes to get his bachelor's degree in information technology in October.

"This was our little paradise because it was affordable, has everything we want, and look at the beautiful view of the lake and golf course," said Elizabeth Cruz, a student at a local fire college and a unit coordinator at a Pembroke Pines hospital.

Elizabeth said she had been told "several times" by doctors that she couldn't get pregnant and "that's why Megan is my little miracle."

The couple is looking for another home while they try to sell theirs in case they lose. "We put it on the market two weeks ago and already we've had nine calls," Daniel said. "But everyone is under 55 and everybody has kids."

Elizabeth took three months of unpaid maternity leave, but she is going back to work six weeks early because they will need the money to move.

Schecter said the condo association has no choice but to force the family out.

"We're not commandos. We're not doing anything to try to hurt them; we're just enforcing the rules approved by owners," he said. "If we make one exception, we'd have to do it for all."

     Please see : Florida Supreme Court Decision: Woodside v. Jahren