Article Courtesy of Channel 7
News -- Miami
By Patrick Fraser
Published November 10, 2018
He is a wheelchair-bound veteran, suffering from multiple sclerosis. One joy in
his life would be to sit on a porch to watch the birds in a pond behind his
house, but his association is blocking him from building the porch. That’s why
he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
When Ruben was young, he wanted to serve
his country. He spent 10 years in the Navy.
Ruben Sepulveda, wants a porch: “I loved it. I loved it.”
Loved the Navy, and then one day he was at a department
store where he spotted a young lady and really fell in love.
Ruben Sepulveda: “So I kinda angled over to her and said,
‘You like this shirt?’ and that’s what began our
Ruben and Lois would get married and begin their life
together. Then the difficult times came.
Lois Sepulveda, fighting homeowners association: “His leg
gave out, and he called me and said he was having trouble walking.”
Ruben had multiple sclerosis. It hit him quickly and very hard.
Ruben Sepulveda: “There are some days I just don’t want to get out of bed.”
Lois Sepulveda: “He can’t get out of bed some days. He is very, very ill.”
One of Ruben’s simple pleasures, besides his service dog, is looking at the
pond in his backyard, but the multiple sclerosis makes it risky for him to
go outside for more than a couple of minutes.
Lois Sepulveda: “Heat does terrible things to people with multiple
sclerosis. It can make him so sick so quickly. He can’t get bitten by any
bugs or mosquitos or his immune system is compromised.”
The veterans administration then concluded the porch was so important for
Ruben’s well-being, the VA gave him an $18,000 grant to pay to construct it.
Lois Sepulveda: “Thank God for the VA.”
Ruben Sepulveda: “I was thrilled.”
The next step is ask their Hibbs Grove Homeowners Association for permission
to build the screened in porch. The answer stunned them.
Lois Sepulveda: “The president of the homeowners association named Sam said
to us, ‘No, it’s not acceptable.’ He said it’s not aesthetically pleasing.”
It would be in their backyard and only a few neighbors, including one with a
chickee hut, could see it. But Ruben can’t build the porch to protect
himself from the heat and insects.
Lois Sepulveda: “It’s terrible that you are treating a veteran like this,
but it’s morally reprehensible that you are treating anybody like this.”
Lois is heartbroken. Ruben is fuming.
Ruben Sepulveda: “I am steaming. I am over-the-top steaming.”
Well Howard, legally is Ruben out of luck?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Sad to say the law is not on his
side. The Americans With Disability and Fair Housing Act probably can’t
help, and the association’s board has to follow their rules. But according
to their own association documents, this board has the right under certain
circumstances to grant an exception, so that porch is still a possibility.”
I contacted the association president, who referred me to their attorney.
Guy Shir said the Hibbs Grove Board has no choice and has to adhere to the
governing documents, which do not allow a porch with a metal roof.
He added the board would allow a screened-in porch with a retractable
awning, but Lois said the VA grant won’t pay for that.
As you can see from 7Skyforce, the board did approve basketball courts and
chickee huts, as well as this pergoda attached to a house with a plastic
Shir said the board was unaware of that roof and would discuss it at their
Shir then offered to come with a contractor to meet with Lois and Ruben to
try to find a way to build the porch that the association would approve.
It’s a ray of hope for Lois.
Lois Sepulveda: “We can’t back down. My husband needs this for his health.
Otherwise, he is stuck in the house all the time.”
Lois will meet with the attorney to hopefully find a way to get a porch for
Lois Sepulveda: “So I am asking you to please reconsider, thank you.”
Ruben Sepulveda: “Yeah, please.”
We will keep an eye on Ruben, and hopefully they can find a common ground
with the association to get that porch built. Or as Howard said, maybe the
board can use their discretion and approve it the way it is.
A problem got you feeling screened in? Ready to knock the roof off things?
Let us construct a solution so you can sit on the porch and watch as we take
the heat off you.