A Dark Cloud Over St. Cloud, Florida

guest blog by Nila Ridings

First a little back story about the connections we are making in our fight for justice in HOAs. This time our focus is on a boy in the ESPRIT HOA near Orlando, Florida.

A few weeks ago I was reading a story that was posted on Facebook about an HOA issue. Many comments were made but one stood out for me. It was a man stating his son had special needs and the HOA was refusing to allow a fence around their back yard. I responded to his comment by mentioning he should talk to Dave Russell. Shortly thereafter, Dave Russell came across my comment and took the time to send his personal phone number to the gentleman.

Once Dave talked with Shawn Seekings and learned his son has Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHA, and Epilepsy and his wife, Kristin is pregnant, he took action. As we all know, Dave Russell is a property manager in Arizona and understands the laws pertaining to fair housing and he has connections to the media. Shawn knows the fair housing laws as well. He had already contacted the government agency that he hoped would give him some assistance. But time is of the essence because Kristin is not able to chase the child since he moves much faster than her these days.

The HOA will only allow an open-spaced wrought iron fence. Shawn knows his son will scale that fence and be at risk with the alligators in the water directly behind their house. He has a letter from his son’s doctor outlining his conditions and the need for a vinyl fence. The vinyl would be a surface his son could not climb up and over. On the other side of the HOA the homeowners have vinyl fences, but next to the alligator pit they only allow wrought iron.

I know. I know. It makes no sense to me either! After seeing a video of an alligator that took one bite and removed the plastic bumper from a truck I would want an eighteen inch thick concrete wall around my yard!

In an HOA the rules are the rules and the dictators on the board always follow them except when it applies to them or one of their cronies. They fail to recognize HOAs cannot legally override or violate a federal law. According to attorney S. David Cooper this HOA is violating the Fair Housing Act. The attorney for the HOA will not return phone calls. And, now another child that just needs to go outside and play remains in the middle of an HOA battle!

A special thank you to Louis Bolden of WKMG6 for reporting this story. Long ago we learned the only way to solve HOA issues without nasty expensive litigation is to turn the cameras on and have the reporters take control. I laughed when the property manager decided she should give the reporter some advice to which he responded he didn’t need any advice!

HOAs…they are a guaranteed headache!

(link to Orlando Sentinel article on autistic child’s treatment by HOA)


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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

4 thoughts on “A Dark Cloud Over St. Cloud, Florida

  1. Deborah Goonan

    This story is making its way around social media. I’ve read through hundreds of reader comments. The majority are supportive of the family and critical of HOAs. But a significant minority of readers are making ingnorant and mean-spirited comments. They claim that the Seekers knew or should have known the rules before they purchased their house, and if they don’t like it, they should move! But since when did the American Republic become a country of individual “communities” ruled by the Taste Police? Why the intense effort to push Keeping Uniform Appearances Rules (I call them KUA Rules)?

    A number of comments are also clearly ignorant about the needs of the disabled, and some commenters seem to have no knowledge of the US Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. They don’t understand the reasons why Fair Housing Laws were created.

  2. Deborah Goonan

    Additionally, readers of this blog should take note of the Paradox of HOA-Land.

    Just take note of today’s blog and yesterday’s blog.

    In today’s blog, it seems HOA fanatics are concerned about Keeping Uniform Appearances, and want the Rules of the “community” to override state and federal law — no matter how petty or inappropriate those rules may be.

    But in yesterday’s blog concerning whether an HOA home buyer should have to pay the seller’s delinquent assessments, HOA fanantics think that FL state law – which requires the buyer to pay all outstanding HOA assessment liens – should override “community” rules about payment of assessments. Why the contradiction? Beause some older HOA governing documents (CC&Rs) state that the HOA cannot require a buyer to pay back debts accumulated by the seller.

    So HOA fans only want to cherry pick the laws they have to follow, depending upon their agenda of the day.

    That’s the exact same philosophy many HOA Boards have when it comes to following and enforcing the CC&Rs and ByLaws! And then they create and bend the Rules to suit their own personal bias!

  3. Dave Russell

    One would think, that after some recent and monumental Fair Housing cases were settled, or a judgment was entered, that HOA’s would stop this discrimination.

    Heartless cowards, who never quite see the forest for the trees, are soon going to realize the financial consequences of their unconstitutional actions. But then again, these HOA’s and their management companies could care less. After all, it’s not their money going up in smoke, now is it? Of course those HOA attorneys are going to pocket a small fortune ‘defending’ these HOA’s. It looks like business as usual.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting a different outcome. It’s going to take us, the media and government agencies like HUD to get rid of the tyrant members in these deplorable HOA’s along with the idiots who run them.

  4. Rod

    One thing for sure it seems it is the authoritarians in the HOA and not always the association itself.
    Claiming they have to follow the law but breaching fiduciary duty; using laws as excuses but falling back on the Mgmt company as scapegoat. There have been many HOAs run for the members by caring thoughtful people but when the people leading are at odds with neighborly conduct it is the membership that suffers.

    We did not buy into the arbitrary rule by zealots who fall prey to power and control over others only to become ultimately despised by the people who they volunteered to help. Way to go leaders if only you heard the conversations and accusations leveled at yourselves while you think you are so above it all.

    If there were not victims like this family it would be humorous. Well actually people are laughing at you but in these ironic situations it is more of a cackle.


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