Florida Family Wins Right To Put Up Fence To Protect Son With Asperger's After Battle With HOA

| by Meg O'Connor
Kristin Seekings.Kristin Seekings.

After a months-long battle with a homeowners association, a family in Orlando, Florida, has finally been allowed to put up a fence for their son with 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 told Local 6 News. "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."

The homeowners association denied the Seekings' initial request because the fence did not meet architectural review board guidelines. Although vinyl fences are permitted in the Seekings family's neighborhood, because the family's home is directly next to a conservation area, the homeowners association said that only a metal fence with pickets would be allowed.

A metal picket fence would be unsafe for the Seekings' 5-year-old son, Kristin explained: "He's a climber. 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 began emailing the homeowners association before the family even moved into the home. During the course of his contact with the homeowners association, Shawn requested an exception to the fencing restrictions, and sent along a letter from his son's neurologist that explained his son suffers from epilepsy, ADHD and Asperger's syndrome.

Yet when the family received a reply from the Melrose Management Partnership, which runs the homeowners association, they were told their request was declined.

Attorney S. David Cooper told Local 6 that the response "sounds like a basic line. Our documents say what they say, we're not going to allow any exceptions." 

The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to allow reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Cooper said the homeowners association is "violating the Fair Housing Act" and that "they have to allow the fence."

In response to the homeowners association's refusal to adhere to federal laws, the Seekings filed a housing discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

After the Seekings provided another letter from their son's physician, the homeowners association's attorney relented and sent the family a letter stating it had approved their request.

"To have this fence is a tremendous relief," Shawn told Local 6. "Now our son has a place to play."

Sources: Orlando News 6 (2) / Photo credit: Screenshot via Orlando News 6