Condominium to settle lawsuit over resident

who wanted grandkids to visit

Article Courtesy of the Naples Daily News

By CHRIS W. COLBY
June 25, 2005

In a settlement with a resident who sued when she was barred from having her 5-year-old grandchildren visit for a week, officials at a North Naples condominium will pay more than $11,500 and drop its age-restriction rules, which state officials called illegal under Florida law.

Windemere Inc. didn't admit liability but agreed to settle the lawsuit, filed by the Florida Attorney General's Office on behalf of the children's grandparents, Richard and Jean Quinn.

Jean Quinn had asked permission of the board of directors at Windemere, 2650 Gulf Shore Blvd. N., for her grandchildren to stay at her condo between March 24 and April 4, 2005. The board denied the request, citing its policy barring non-immediate family members if the owner isn't present. Jean Quinn has only a minority ownership of the condo unit, and the majority owner, her sister, wasn't a party to Quinn's request.

But state officials argued Windemere's regulation was discriminatory under the state Fair Housing and Civil Rights acts, according to the lawsuit, filed Feb. 2 in Collier County Circuit Court.

Shortly after the state filed the suit, the two sides entered an agreement temporarily lifting the ban to allow Quinn's grandchildren to visit. And the attorneys entered into a settlement, called a consent decree, that drops the suit in exchange for concessions from Windemere. Judge Daniel R. Monaco approved the agreement June 2.

Windemere will void its age-restriction rules relating to minors and will distribute copies of the amended rules to all its owners, guests and renters, according to the consent decree.

Windemere also must write a letter of apology to the Quinns and reimburse Jean Quinn and her sister, Mary Clare Broadbent, "for the share of assessments levied upon Unit 704 by the board to fund its expenses of the litigation, including, but not limited to, attorneys fees, damages and civil penalties." The court records don't say how much money that involved.

And Windemere must pay $11,550 to the Attorney General's Office for attorneys' fees, costs and penalties allowable under the state Civil Rights Act.

Dennis Cronin, a Naples attorney representing Windemere, said he contacted his clients to see if they had a comment on the case. They had none, he said Friday.

Gladys Perez, an assistant attorney general representing the Quinns, was unavailable for comment Thursday and Friday.

The suit was filed against Windemere, and its president, vice president, secretary and directors. The suit said the Florida Civil Rights Act protects people from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national original, age, handicap, or familial status.

The issue of disagreement involved each side's definition of familial status and Jean Quinn's lack of full ownership of the unit.

Under its now former restrictions, in the owner's absence no minor under age 16 who doesn't have a "familial status" could be permitted inside the condo. And a visit by someone other than "immediate family" parents, siblings, children and spouses required special approval of the condo board of directors.

Jean Quinn owns a 25 percent interest in unit 704; her sister owns 75 percent. According to the lawsuit, Windemere required that one person be designated as owner. So Quinn was not the designated owner and didn't have a right to visitation by the grandchildren, Windemere officials argued.

However, the Attorney General's Office pointed to a state law that defines familial as a parent or other person having legal custody of such individual or "a designee of a parent or other person having legal custody, with the written permission of such parent or other person."

That definition qualified the grandchildren as familial, the suit argued, even though they weren't immediate family as defined by the condominium association.

Also under the settlement, Windemere must agree to document any complaints of discrimination and forward them to the State Attorney General.

 

It must post a U.S. Housing and Urban Development fair housing poster in a conspicuous location in the condo. And it must host a live educational program about federal and state fair housing laws for its board members.


Naples couple sues condo for limiting visits by grandchildren

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