Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel
February 17, 2005
-- A southwest Florida couple is getting the state's help in a lawsuit accusing
a condominium association of discrimination because their grandchildren weren't
allowed to stay with them for a week or longer.
The state Attorney General's Office and Department of Legal Affairs,
representing Richard and Jean Quinn, sued Windemere Inc. on Feb. 2. The couple
had asked permission for their grandchildren to stay at the condo for longer
than a week, but the request was denied.
The suit alleges Windemere violated state laws by barring non-immediate family
members from the building when the owner isn't present. Jean Quinn has only a
minority ownership of the condo unit.
The suit asks the court to prevent the condominium directors from enforcing the
age-restrictive occupancy rules and allow the visit.
Gladys Perez, an assistant attorney general representing the Quinns, said she
and Windemere's lawyer will enter an agreement with the court next week,
allowing the grandchildren to visit. That will take care of Perez's request for
an injunction, but the basis of the lawsuit will remain active.
Perez will ask the judge to invalidate Windemere's policy and levy a $10,000
civil penalty. ``Under the Florida Fair Housing Act, you cannot discriminate
against someone on the basis of one of the protected statuses ... Familial
status is one of them,'' Perez said Wednesday.
Rubin Grossi, a member of the Windemere board of directors, called the issue a
misunderstanding that will be resolved soon.
``It's a very simple, technical problem that was blown out of proportion,''
Grossi said. The issue hinges on each side's apparent definition of familial
status and the Quinns' lack of full ownership of the condominium. Jean Quinn's
sister owns 75 percent of the condo.
The association's rules state that, in the owner's absence, no one younger than
16 who doesn't have a ``familial status'' will be permitted inside the condo. A
visit by someone other than ``immediate family'' _ parents, siblings, children
and spouses _ requires special approval.
Such a case is unusual but not unheard of in Florida, Perez said. She cited two
1997 appeals court cases that held rules restricting occupancy by minors
constitutes discrimination under state law.