Family battles homeowners association over fence for son with Asperger's syndrome
ST. CLOUD, Fla. – A local family is in a battle with their homeowners association over a fence for their son, who has Asperger's syndrome.
"He has a very real disability that you cannot see and he can't have the one thing he really needs," Kristin Seekings said to Local 6 News with tears in her eyes.
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"We selected a home that would be safe for him, that would have interior components that were safe for him, that we could provide exterior safety for him and we're being denied that and it's not OK," she said.
The Esprit subdivision in St. Cloud does allow vinyl fences, in fact they're all over the neighborhood. However, the Seekings home backs up to a conservation area. The HOA will only allow a metal picketed fence, which the Seekings said is not safe.
"He's a climber," Kristin Seekings said about her 5-year-old. "He's an escape artist, he is one who is not afraid of danger, so he is going to immediately try and scale that."
Shawn Seekings has an email chain with the HOA that started before they moved in. When asking for an exception, he included a letter from his son's neurologist saying his son has epilepsy, ADHD and Asperger's syndrome.
Weeks later, the family got a letter from the Melrose Management Partnership, which runs the HOA, saying their request was "declined," according to the letter.
Their reason: It doesn't meet the architectural review board guidelines.
"What that sounds like to me is a basic line. Our documents say what they say, we're not going to allow any exceptions," attorney S. David Cooper said to Local 6.
Cooper pointed to the Fair Housing Act, which requires housing providers make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. He said the HOA is breaking the law.
"I would say they are violating the Fair Housing Act and they have to allow this fence," he said.
But the HOA isn't budging. No one responded to calls and emails, so Local 6 went to the company's office.
"Are you concerned at all about a little boy who has (Asperger's syndrome)?" Local 6's Louis Bolden asked.
"I'm going to ask you to go ahead and contact the attorney," Katherine Montgomery said.
Montgomery said she is a vice president with the company. She also assured us the attorney would explain the whole story. But when we called the attorney five times over three days, he never called back.
The Seekings said they won't stop.
"They don't have the final say when there are federal laws designed to protect you," Shawn Seekings said.
The Seekings have filed a housing discrimination complaint with the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.
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