The U.S. Department of Justice has sued a Lexington neighborhood association, alleging it discriminated and retaliated against a family who built a therapeutic playhouse for their son who has cerebral palsy.
The lawsuit alleges that the Andover Forest Homeowners Association and EMG Management Services violated the federal Fair Housing Act when they failed to make reasonable accommodations for Dr. George and Tiffiney Veloudis and their toddler son.
The federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights division.
Nathan Billings, a lawyer for the Andover Forest Homeowners Association, said his client has not seen the lawsuit. But Billings said they are confident that once a federal judge hears the facts, the complaint against Andover Forest Homeowners Association will be dismissed.
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"The HOA has always denied and continues to deny that it violated the Fair Housing Act," Billings said.
Trip Redford, a lawyer for EMG, which is hired by the homeowners association to manage the neighborhood, said his client had also not seen the complaint. "We don't have a comment because we have not yet had the opportunity to review it," Redford said.
Edwin Gibson, an owner of EMG Management Services, said his company helps enforce deed restrictions for homeowners associations. It does not discriminate against anyone. It manages more than 7,000 homes in homeowner associations in Fayette and surrounding counties.
"We issue the violations," Gibson said. "We do not discriminate against anybody. We do not know the personal circumstances of what caused the violation."
Calls to Dr. George Veloudis' office and to the Veloudis' attorneys were not immediately returned on Friday.
The saga over the Veloudis family's fight with the Andover Forest neighborhood association drew national headlines and spirited debate on social media more than two years ago when the story first became public.
In April 2011, Dr. George and Tiffiney Veloudis installed a $5,000 enclosed playhouse for son Cooper at their then-home in the Andover Forest subdivision. The problem is the large playhouse — a 12-foot by 8-foot enclosed structure — is prohibited by restrictions on the deeds of Andover Forest homeowners.
The Veloudis family argued that they read the homeowners' agreement before they bought the playhouse and didn't think that the playhouse was any different than the large tree houses and swing sets already in the neighborhood.
But the homeowners association said the playhouse was similar to a large garden shed and cited the Veloudis family for being in violation of the deed restrictions. Those deed restrictions prohibited "enclosed structures." The playhouse was also on the Veloudis' side yard near their property boundary rather than in the back yard.
The Andover Forest Homeowners Association issued a "restriction violation" to the Veloudis family shortly after the playhouse was placed on the property. According to the lawsuit, the Veloudis family applied for an exception and argued the playhouse was needed because Cooper, who was then two, needed a place to help him learn how to get up and down stairs and to help with other aspects of his day-to-day physical and occupational therapy.
In November 2011, the homeowners association sent the family a letter saying the playhouse was a prohibited structure. The November 2011 letter also said the Veloudis family would be prohibited from using the amenities of Andover Forest and were no longer voting members of the homeowners association. The Veloudis family appealed.
In February 2012, the homeowners association said it would grant a temporary exemption for the playhouse pending a court order or further mediation.
Later in February 2012, the Veloudis family filed a federal fair housing complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alleging, among other things, that the homeowners association and EMG had failed to grant their reasonable request for an exemption to the deed restrictions based on their son's disability.
In July 2012, the association passed a resolution granting the Veloudis' request to keep their playhouse. But the homeowners association conditioned its approval on the Veloudis' meeting "onerous requirements, including providing medical updates for (Cooper)" the lawsuit says.
Billings said that the Veloudis family had repeatedly said that the playhouse was needed for Cooper's therapy but did not produce evidence that it had been prescribed by a doctor or a therapist until mid to late 2012, he said.
"There was no evidence regarding that until May 2012 and what was presented at the time was bare bones at best," Billings said. The letters that were sent from Cooper's medical providers were also written after the playhouse had already been placed on the property, Billings said.
The Veloudis family rejected the homeowners association's conditions but moved the playhouse to behind the fence line in September 2012.
According to the complaint, they purchased a new home in April 2013 and after making accommodations to the home so it would be accessible to Cooper, the family moved into the new home in July 2014.
Billings said the playhouse is still on the property even though the Veloudis family has moved.
Among other things, the lawsuit asks a federal judge to enjoin the Andover Forest Homeowners Association and EMG from discriminating against someone because of a disability.
The lawsuit also asks for monetary damages.