A 94-year-old Oak Park woman has asked a federal judge to order the association that manages her condominium building to allow her to rent her condo temporarily to allow her to use the rental income to offset her medical expenses, saying association rules forbidding her from renting the condo until it has been listed for sale for a year stands as a violation of her rights to a “reasonable accommodation” under federal fair housing and disability laws.
Plaintiff Lillian Vignola owns a unit in the building run by the 151 North Kenilworth Condominium Association, on Kenilworth Avenue, just north of Lake Street in Oak Park. Unable to live in the unit since a 2014 fall at her home, Vignola attempted to rent her condo while she lives in a rehabilitation facility. The Association denied the request, so she sought injunctive relief.
In addition to naming 151 North Kenilworth, the complaint, filed Jan. 18, also listed as defendants attorney Pamela Park and the legal firm of Kovitz, Shifrin, Nesbit, saying they “unlawfully demanded ‘proof’ of Ms. Vignola’s disability even though it is an obvious disability — one requiring an extended stay in a rehabilitation facility.” Vignola said she intends to return to her condo once she completes the rehab process, and said, therefore, the accommodation she requested complies with the Fair Housing Act, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Even though she argued in the complaint the request for medical “proof” was illegal, Vignola nonetheless supplied a letter from a doctor to the Association’s legal counsel, as requested. Still, the Association “outrageously” refused to allow the accommodation, she said.
“This refusal threatens Ms. Vignola’s ability to maintain her home because she is financially unable to afford both the condominium and the required residential rehabilitation care necessitated by her disability,” Vignola argued in her complaint.
In denying her request, the Association cited its rule stipulating no condo owner can lease a unit unless it has been listed for sale for a full year. Vignola wants that stipulation lifted, arguing the condo “will not be available for her to return to as planned if she lists it for sale and it is sold, so allowing her to lease it without first listing it for sale is a reasonable accommodation of her need to offset the costs of both paying to maintain her condominium and to live in the 24-hour rehabilitation care facility her disability presently requires.”
She noted the listing for sale requirement is “illusory” as it cannot be found in Association bylaws and “does not appear in the First Amendment of Declaration of Condominium Ownership,” which the association filed with Cook County in 1987.
Despite not being in that document, she contended, lawyer Michael Shifrin, of Kovitz, Shifrin, Nesbit, cited the requirement in a Sept. 10, 2014, email he sent to Vignola’s attorney. She also argued the Association’s “bylaws contain an impermissible and unreasonable limit on occupancy of two persons per bedroom in violation of the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition of familial-status discrimination.”
In addition to seeking a jury trial, Vignola asked the court to affirm her right to lease the condo and to make null and void the prohibition on occupancy by more than two people per bedroom. She also sought monetary damages for actual, compensatory, pain and suffering and legal fees.
Vignola’s attorneys are Paul Bernstein and Kelli Dudley, both of Chicago.