Florida group's advocacy frees woman from her home

Lake Park, Fla., November 22, 2005--Swift advocacy by the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches (FHC) has resulted in the Harborview Condominium Association agreeing to allow Lynda Steltz, a mother of two with multiple sclerosis, who uses a wheelchair, to install a lift so that she can access her home. Ms. Steltz lives on the second floor of the Harborview Condominium in Lake Park FL, a two-story, 10 unit condominium built in 1986, which does not have an elevator.

For years Lynda Steltz struggled to go up the stairs with the assistance of her companion. After Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne she was no longer able to go up the stairs this way and needed to call the fire department for assistance to go up the stairs.

Ms. Steltz then requested that a wheelchair lift be installed, at her expense next to her unit, so that she could enter and leave her condominium unit without the assistance of the fire department. She alleged that the Harborview Condominium Association refused to allow her the needed chairlift, unless she complied with a host of demands, including among others: providing proof of liability insurance, obtaining written approval by the other condominium owners, payment of delinquent Association dues, and the repair of her screens and windows that were damaged during the storms in 2004.                 

After eight months with no progress on her request, Ms. Steltz contacted the FHC. At the time of first contacting the FHC she had not left her apartment since July 2005, a virtual prisoner in her own home.

Upon the FHC receiving her complaint, Ms. Steltz was counseled by the FHC on her rights as a person with a disability, to enjoy safe and accessible access to her condominium , as is protected under federal, State and local fair housing laws. In addition she was counseled on her array of options to secure her rights, ranging from administrative proceedings, to filing in Federal District Court for relief. Under the Fair Housing Act such relief may include actual and compensatory damages, attorney fees and costs, and may also include civil penalties ranging from $10,000 to possibly $50,000.

Within days of Ms. Steltz contacting the FHC, the FHC brought massive public attention to Ms. Steltz plight through the Palm Beach Post and the threat of pending litigation, in order to free Ms. Steltz from this blatant act of housing discrimination. This quick action by the FHC has resulted in the Condominium Association expeditiously granting Ms. Steltz the sought after approval for a wheelchair lift.

"We commend Ms. Steltz and her partner of 14 years, Rocco Pellegrino, for their advocacy, which not only helped Ms. Steltz, but will also help other similarly situated disabled persons. Our hope is that those who learn of this major victory will join in the fight to end housing discrimination against people with disabilities in Palm Beach County, and throughout our nation" stated Vince Larkins, FHC President/CEO.