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Couple hit Seminole condo association with disability discrimination lawsuit

SEMINOLE — A husband and wife are suing Mayor Jimmy Johnson and the other officers in their condo association, claiming they have discriminated against the couple because of the woman's chronic lung disease.

Daniel and Laura Hommel own a second-floor condo in the Gardens 106, a 55-plus community off Park Boulevard next to Lake Seminole Park. They accuse the homeowners association board, which includes Johnson, the condominiums and the complex's insurer of violating the Fair Housing Act by requiring that the Hommels either get rid of an electric chair lift or pay extra insurance if it stays.

Mrs. Hommel, they say, cannot climb the stairs by herself and they are unable to afford the extra insurance premium — an estimated $2,700 to $3,500 a year. Mrs. Hommel is living in a nearby one-story nursing home while the issues are worked out.

The Hommels have lived in the Gardens since July 1977. When they first moved in, Mrs. Hommel was healthy and able to get around easily. Now 76, she suffers from a breathing disorder and also has trouble walking. She has been unable to climb the stairs to her home since 2004 and has used a wheelchair since 2005.

The Hommels installed an electric chair lift in the outside stairwell in 2004. The chair folds and stays locked when not being used. It remained for about a year with no complaints or incidents, the lawsuit says. But in 2005, the complex told the Hommels they would have to take the lift out because it violates the fire code.

A year later, the Hommels asked permission to reinstall the lift. He got permission from both his neighbors and the Seminole Fire Department, but did not install the lift because the homeowners board said he would have to pay the extra insurance premium.

The Hommels complained in late 2007 to the county's Office of Human Rights that they were victims of disability discrimination. A county investigation concluded the Hommels had been discriminated against and authorized the lawsuit be filed. The Hommels want to be able to install the lift without paying the extra insurance premium. They're also asking for an unspecified amount in monetary damages.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Couple hit Seminole condo association with disability discrimination lawsuit 12/22/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:08pm]
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