Trujillos Get Condo's "Back Door" Policy Tossed;
Board Must Pay $83,000 In Settlement
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 14, 2004
GLENVIEW, ILLINOIS--The family of 10-year-old Jaime Trujillo finally got good news last Wednesday.
Their son, who has physical and mental disabilities, can roll his wheelchair right through the front entrance at Triumvera Tower Condominiums where they live, without threats of having to pay a fine.
In addition, according to the settlement of a lawsuit announced September 8, the Condominium Association's board will have to pay the Trujillo family $70,000 for violating their rights under the federal Fair Housing Act.
The Association will be issuing a formal apology for forcing Jaime to use the rear entrance. The Association's president must also "retire" from his post on the board.
An additional $10,000 was awarded to the widow of another resident who had been told he couldn't use the front entrance in his wheelchair.
Before the Trujillo family moved into the condominium in this Chicago suburb last September, they were told that condo policy does not allow furniture, strollers or wheelchairs to enter through the front entrance because they might damage the doors. The Trujillos said that they did not openly protest the rule at first because they worried they might be denied a home.
The family said they tried to follow the policy, which directed them to use a rear entrance, until they found the route was barely wide enough for Jaime's wheelchair.
The Trujillos decided to use the front entrance, hoping that board members and other residents would see that Jaime's wheelchair did not cause damage to doors. This was met, however, with a letter from the Association directing them again to use the rear entrance. On another occasion, the board president allegedly ordered a building maintenance worker to physically block the front door to keep Jaime and his nurse from entering, then threatened to fine the Trujillos $50 each time the boy came through the front entrance.
"We're glad to put this behind us, to move forward, to live in a beautiful building with fantastic neighbors," the boy's father, Claudio Trujillo, told reporters outside the courtroom Wednesday. "I'm glad that the rule is out . . . and that my son can enter the building through a main door."
In addition to the payments for the Trujillo family and the widow of the other resident, the Association will also have pay a $3,500 civil penalty for violating the fair housing law.
Access Living, which represented the Trujillo family, noted in a press statement that the policy sending Jaime to the back entrance of his home was much like pre-Civil Rights era policies requiring African Americans to sit at the back of buses.
"This settlement will serve as a tool for all people with disabilities to enforce their civil rights in housing," said Karen Tamley, Director of Programs of Access Living. "We hope that it also triggers a new commitment on the part of condominium and homeowners' associations, as well as property managers, to comply with fair housing laws."
"Condo can't restrict wheelchair access" (Chicago Tribune)
Final Consent Decree in Trujillo v. Triumvera Tower Condominium Association (U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois)
[Note: Document may require Microsoft Word to open]
The Fair Housing Act (U.S. Department of Justice)