Auburn Woods I Homeowners Association v. Fair Employment & Housing Commission

121 Cal. App. 4th 1578, 18 Cal. Rptr. 3d 669 (2004)

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Auburn Woods I Homeowners Association v. Fair Employment & Housing Commission

California Court of Appeal
121 Cal. App. 4th 1578, 18 Cal. Rptr. 3d 669 (2004)

Facts

Jayne and Ed Elebiari both suffered from severe depression following a serious car accident in which Ed was involved. The accident left Ed brain damaged with bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a seizure disorder. Ed’s psychiatrist considered him permanently disabled. Jayne’s depression following her husband’s accident manifested in severe and recurrent episodes of self-harm and isolation. At the time, the Elebiaris lived in a condominium at Auburn Woods. The homeowner’s association (HOA) (defendant) adopted a rule that no dogs were allowed to be kept in the development. Despite this, the Elebiaris bought a small dog, Pooky. The dog had a positive impact on the mental health of the Elebiaris. However, the director of the HOA sent the Elebiaris a formal letter telling them Pooky needed to be removed. Jayne thus had her doctor forward a letter stating that the dog was a recommended accommodation to the Elebiaris’ medical conditions. The attorney for the HOA requested additional information, and the Elebiaris hired an attorney who coordinated with the HOA to get Pooky approved to live on the property. After a board meeting, counsel for the HOA ultimately determined that it would not allow Pooky to be a companion pet on the property. The Elebiaris put their condominium for sale on the market and filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). After an investigation and administrative hearing with the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC), the judge found that the Elebiaris were disabled and that the HOA had adequate notice of the disabilities. Thus, a companion dog would have been a reasonable accommodation and failure to approve the request was unlawful discrimination. The HOA appealed, and a trial court reversed the FEHC’s adopted decision. The FEHC and the Elebiaris appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hull, J.)

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