Lawfuel – The Law Newswire – TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill M…

Lawfuel – The Law Newswire – TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that a disabled Central Florida resident must be reasonably accommodated by her retirement community under Florida’s Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act.

Under the terms of a settlement agreement announced today between Avatar
Properties, Inc., (Avatar) and Attorney General McCollum, the Solivita at
Poinciana (Solivita), a retirement community owned by Avatar, will create a disabled parking space near the community’s fitness facility and will renovate other areas within the facility that were previously inaccessible to disabled individuals.

“Discrimination in any form is unacceptable and we will continue to
defend the civil rights of disabled Floridians against these types of
violations,” said Attorney General McCollum. “The successful resolution of
this case is, unquestionably, the best outcome possible.”

In 2001, Rhonda White was informed by Solivita personnel that she could
no longer park her vehicle on the street in front of the community’s
fitness center because the area had been recently re-designated as golf
cart parking. Because her disability prevents her from using a golf cart,
White requested permission to continue parking her car in front of the
fitness center as a reasonable accommodation, but her request was denied.
She filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and,
after receiving notice that there was sufficient evidence to substantiate
her allegations of discrimination, White elected for the Attorney General’s Office to pursue the matter on her behalf.

Upon further investigation, the Office of Civil Rights found that not
only was the denial discriminatory, but that several areas within the
community’s fitness center also violated the design and construction
standards of the Florida Fair Housing Act and other anti-discrimination
laws. The retirement community was made aware of the additional
inaccessibility issues and was advised that its denial of White’s request
for a reasonable accommodation was illegal. The Office of Civil Rights
formally requested that White be allowed to park in front of the fitness
center as requested and that the inaccessible areas be modified to meet
accessibility requirements. Again, Solivita refused.

In 2004, the Attorney General’s Office sued under Florida’s Civil Rights
Act. The case was one of the first brought by the Attorney General’s Office that exercised the authority granted pursuant to Florida Statute section 760.021, which enables the Office of Civil Rights to initiate lawsuits to address civil rights violations. After several years of litigation, and an appeal which was filed in 2006 and argued in April 2007 by the Solicitor General’s Office, Avatar agreed to create a disabled parking space near the fitness center in response to White’s request. Additionally, Avatar agreed to remedy some of the Solivita fitness center’s inaccessible areas. The settlement also included other permanent injunctive relief, compensation damages, and attorney fees and costs.

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