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Real estate Q&A: Doctor's diagnosis is first step to getting help with housing association

Gary M. Singer, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: My association is refusing to make accommodations to help me with my disability. What should I do? -- Ray

A: Discrimination in all of its forms is wrong and should be addressed. This includes discrimination in housing against those who are disabled. Under the law, if you have a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits at least one life activity, your housing provider, whether a landlord or community association, is required to provide a reasonable accommodation that is necessary and related to your condition.

You may be asked to provide proof of your condition and that the requested accommodation will assist. A letter from your treating physician that states that you are disabled, the requested accommodation, and the relationship between the two will usually get the job done.

Your housing provider is not allowed to question a doctor's diagnosis, but is allowed to verify the letter is provided by an actual doctor who is treating you. Not every request has to be granted even with proof.

Requests that do not directly relate to your treatment, create a large burden on your provider, or threaten the health or safety of your neighbors can be denied. For example, you cannot ask your association to install an elevator to your second story walk-up, or expect your community to accept a vicious dog with a history of snapping at your neighbors.

If you feel that you are being discriminated against, either because you are disabled or for any other reason, your first step is to clearly and calmly communicate with your association. Find out what their concern is and try to address it. I have come across many board members who were not aware of the law. If the problem is one of ignorance, polite education can often work.

It is always a good idea to document your efforts. If this does not work you can get the government involved. While most people know that the federal government enforces these laws, you can also contact a variety of other agencies. State, county, and even many local cities can offer you help. If you hit a dead end with these sources, you many need to get a knowledgeable attorney involved to be your advocate.

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About The Writer

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

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