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Apartments in Miami Gardens, Opa-locka sued

Owner accused of discriminating against the disabled

Erick Johnson | 6/12/2014, 9 a.m.
They spent millions of dollars on clubhouses, swimming pools and upgrades to apartment units and parking lots. But when asked ...
HOPE and six disabled residents filed a discrimination lawsuit against Charter Realty, which manages 183rd and 187th Street Apartments (above) and two other apartments in Miami Gardens and Opa-locka. Photo by Erick Johnson

SPLASHY RENOVATIONS

In 2007, Miami Property Group spent $6 million on renovating the three apartments, according to the suit. The upgrades included new swimming pools, clubhouses as well as new roofs and upgrades to parking areas and units.

But that’s where the renovations fell short, according to the suit, which alleges that disabled residents were denied “reasonable modifications or accommodations which would allow them equal use and enjoyment of the premises.”

The suit is based on 30 complaints against Charter Realty that were filed with HUD in the past year. Six of those complainants who lived at various apartment locations alleged they were asked “invasive” questions after they repeatedly asked for accommodations.

In addition, HOPE alleged mangers and owners of the complex wrote policies that required disabled residents to disclosed confidential medical information about their disability. Such request violates Florida law and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

“The beautiful thing is that they put all this stuff in writing so it’s all documented,” said Keenya Robertson, chief executive officer and president of HOPE.

Carter, one of the plaintiffs, lives with her son and three grandchildren in the 183rd Street Apartments in Miami Gardens. Because she weighs nearly 300 pounds, Carter uses a walker to get around. She is unable to watch her grandchildren on the facility’s playground because there’s no ramp or handicap access to the area, according to the suit. In addition, there is no ramp that allows Carter to move inside and outside her home.

A LOSING BATTLE

Since last September, Carter, along with HOPE tried but failed to have grab bars installed near the toilet in her bathroom. According to the suit, Carter was promised to have the grab bars installed, but during follow-up conversations, she was told different things. On October 13, Shari Rockwell, an attorney for Miami Realty group told Carter that she could not be given a grab bar over the toilet. Rockwell said from her experience, people who have a grab bar in the shower do not get one for the toilet, the suit alleges. She then advised Carter to have her health insurer provide her with grab bars and a raised toilet seat, according to the suit. When Robertson from HOPE suggested that this task is the responsibility of Charter Realty, Rockwell became upset, the suit alleges.

While waiting for her grab bars, Carter used the bathroom’s door knob to help her stand after using the toilet. But on May 19, Carter slipped and fell while doing this. As a result, Carter was injured and hospitalized for two weeks. She is currently in rehabilitation to recover from her the fall.

Getting a ramp also proved to be a difficult feat for Carter. On Aug. 7 Carter requested a ramp for easy access to her apartment. But in a follow-up conversation, Rockwell told Robertson that Carter withdrew her request, which was false, according to HOPE. The request for the ramp remained in limbo even after Carter was released from the hospital after her fall. That’s when Charter Realty told Carter they refused to install a ramp and asked her medical provider if she is still able to live at the premises and under what conditions, according to the suit. Then Charter Realty then sent a letter to Carter, questioning her plans for a wheelchair, which managers said was needed in order to have a ramp installed. Carter, who’s a secretary of the tenant’s association, was told that she could no longer hold that position since she filed a complaint with HUD. But after HOPE accused them of retaliation, Charter Realty recanted this statement saying Carter can remain in her position despite filing her complaint, according to the suit.

The other plaintiffs in the suit allege similar treatment by Charter Realty, who’s also accused of discouraging disabled residents from obtaining assistance dogs by “asking invasive” questions and requiring applicants to re-apply for a permit within a given time period.

HOPE also allege in the suit that Charter Realty is discriminating against families by imposing a curfew at 9 p.m. when there is no such restriction in Miami-Dade County.

Efforts to reach Charter Realty and the Miami Property Group were unsuccessful. The phone at Charter Realty rang without going to voicemail.