Broward County is poised to sue an oceanfront condo in Pompano Beach, alleging it broke the law by refusing to allow a Canadian snowbird to buy a vacation unit because he has three young daughters.
According to the county's civil rights investigators and attorneys, Admiralty Towers Condominium, is not a 55-and-over place to live, but still disallows people with young children from moving in.
That's a violation of federal and county housing laws, the county alleges.
Or, as county officials worded it in a memo to county commissioners: "The Division investigated the complaint and found reasonable cause that Admiralty discriminated against the complainants based on familial status.''
Officials with Admiralty couldn't be reached for comment Monday despite a message left at the office.
County commissioners are scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether file a lawsuit, a perfunctory vote that county attorneys have said the commissioners are obligated to take.
Typically housing discrimination cases would go to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but in Broward, they're handled at county hall under an arrangement the federal government pays for.
According to the county's documents, here's what happened:
Quebec resident David Ip Fook Shing wanted a vacation condo at the Admiralty and was close to closing on a purchase last fall. The contract went to the condo board for approval.
"The application was denied,'' the county said in a summarizing document, "because Admiralty's bylaws do not permit children under the age of 12 to stay in the building.''
Ip Fook Shing and his wife have daughters ages 7, 9 and 11.
The county will ask the courts to prevent the condo from enforcing the bylaw again, and to levy a civil penalty against Admiralty "in order to vindicate the public interest.''
The county also plans to ask the courts for financial compensation for Ip Fook Shing for any damages, and reimbursement of the county's legal costs in taking the case to court.
Whether the would-be buyer is a man of means or not is irrelevant in these cases, county attorneys have said. Federal dollars pay for his lawsuit.
Lisa Magill, an attorney with Becker Poliakoff law firm who specializes in community association law, said a 1989 federal law protects families with children from being discriminated against in housing.
Only condos that meet 55-and-older age restriction criteria may keep younger buyers or renters out, she said.
The lawsuit is the latest in a string for Broward County.
In recent months, the county has sued a Deerfield Beach no-pets condo for saying a woman couldn't keep her Chihuahua as an emotional support pet, and a Coconut Creek age-restricted condo that said a man younger than 55 couldn't remain living there.
In both cases, the county attorneys argue that due to the residents' physical or mental disabilities, condo rules should be waived to provide the "reasonable accommodation'' required under federal law.
Efforts to settle all three cases through mediation failed.