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Elekes v. Orchard Meadows Condominium Association

A-2690-02T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

AMERICAN WITH DISABILITIES ACT; CONDOMINIUMS—A reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act means the duty to attempt to accommodate the physical disability, not a duty to acquiesce to the disabled person’s requests to certain benefits.

A condominium association “designated certain areas for pet walking and required that waste be removed by each owner.” A legally blind person “aired” his guide dog in other parts of the condominium’s common areas. Neighbors complained about this violation and complained about the blind person “failing to clean up his dog’s waste.” The man denied that his dog was causing an unsanitary condition and contended “that the grassy area [designated by the condominium association] behind his own unit was unacceptable because it was treated with lawn chemicals that might be hazardous to the dog.” In response, the association directed its landscaper to stop using chemicals of any kind near the suggested area. Nonetheless, the man continued to walk his dog in the restricted area and the other residents continued to complain.

The blind man filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, alleging that the condominium association “had discriminated against him in violation of the Law Against Discrimination, ... and had failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation as required by law.” The Division dispatched an investigator. The investigator concluded that the man’s refusal was based on his personal preference. The investigator also reported that the association was not obliged to adhere to the man’s preferences ” so long as it has offered [the man] reasonable alternative accommodations.” The Division denied his complaint, and the man filed an appeal with the Appellate Division. The Court held that the Division’s decision was correct and that all that the law required was that the association make a “‘reasonable accommodation’ in light of [the man’s] disability.” According to the Court, a “reasonable accommodation” means “the duty ... to attempt to accommodate the physical disability ..., not ... a duty ... to acquiesce to the disabled [party’s] requests for certain benefits… .”

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