DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A Daytona Beach man is looking for answers after his friend was fined by her apartment complex following a visit from him and his service dog.
Justin Harden’s dog, Hunter, helps him with the seizures he says he has been suffering since he was a child. A few days ago, he was visiting a friend at her apartment near International Speedway Boulevard. After they left, a note was posted on the door highlighting the issue.
"As a result of this violation of your lease contract, your account has been charged a fee of $400.00 for an unauthorized animal," the notice reads.
Harden feels as though his right to bring his service dog anywhere should be protected, regardless of lease agreements. Apartment management disagrees. FOX 35 News reached out to a spokesperson who said the tenant agreed to abide by the rules under which she was fined.
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"Our lease is very clear about the pet policy, service animal policy, and visiting pet policy… We have every resident go through a company called PetScreening, where you answer a set of questions about animals," the complex said.
Under those terms, tenants are required to note any visiting animals, service, or otherwise. As a result of this agreement, the fine will stand, according to management.
Jolynn Falto-Tomas is a partner at Eclat Law, a firm that specializes in cases related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She said in a courtroom that the case could go either way, adding that while the protections guaranteed under the ADA are promised, the way they are carried out is subjective.
"Not only do you have that ADA,, but you also have a person's rights to the home that they're renting. So in the law, it's always, there's a lot of gray."
She said if she were in charge of the case, she would lean in favor of the tenant because, under ADA, those with disabilities must be offered a legitimate alternative to the action or service they are taking part in. In this case, it would mean reasonable accommodation apart from a service dog, which Falto-Tomas does not believe is feasible.
The situation outlines the need to thoroughly read lease agreements to ensure incidents like these don’t occur. Harden said his friend was unaware the dog would be accompanying him.
"It bothers me because, you know, it's not like he's a bad dog. You know, they act like, you know, my dog isn't allowed to be there," he said.