Judge: Aspen service-dog dispute likely headed for trial
The joint owner of an Aspen condo and a homeowners’ association remain in a legal standoff more than a year after a federal lawsuit was filed over a service-dog dispute.
A pretrial order issued Aug. 9 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe noted ”there is little possibility of settlement. It is anticipated that this case is going to trial.”
Condo owner Alvaro J. Arnal sued both the homeowners’ association and property-management firm for Aspen View Condominiums in May 2015 in the U.S. District Court of Denver. His suit accused the defendants of discrimination by making it difficult for her to move in with a service dog.
The woman, Natasha MacArthur, who has a separate federal suit pending against the HOA, moved into the unit in December 2013 and left in March 2014.
Aspen View Condominiums is an 18-unit complex located at 326 Midland Ave. It prohibits dogs.
When MacArthur agreed to sublease Arnal’s unit in November 2013, she indicated to him that she was epileptic and had a service dog, according to Arnal’s suit. Both the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act cover service dogs, meaning they are allowed to live with their owners where canines are prohibited.
According to Arnal’s suit, the HOA demanded documentation about the woman’s disability and how the dog would help prevent her seizures. An Aspen doctor provided the HOA board with a letter in March 2014 saying MacArthur has a “well-documented seizure disorder” and “benefits greatly” from the dog.
The HOA, however, started fining Arnal $50 a day on Jan. 31, 2014, because he had allowed the dog to live there. By July 9, 2014, Arnal had racked up nearly $10,000 in both legal bills and liens from the HOA, the suit says.
The condo association disputes the allegations and claims Arnal “failed to provide required documentation to the association to establish that his tenant met the requirements as set forth by the Fair Housing Act,” according to the pretrial order that summarizes each side’s positions.
The association also maintains MacArthur moved into the unit before the association crafted a policy regarding service dogs as they relate to the Fair Housing Act. MacArthur also refused to provide the necessary documentation about her condition as allowed under the Fair Housing Act, while her doctor’s note contained limited details about her medical issues, the association alleges.
MacArthur moved out before providing all of the information the homeowners’ association demanded, according to the defense’s position in the pretrial order.
“The association never evicted the tenant, forced her to move out or demanded that she move out before she announced her intention to move out,” the pretrial order states. “As long as there was any indication that she wanted to stay, there was never any act or statement of any kind to force the tenant to move out.”
The association also is counter-suing Arnal for violating HOA covenants and bylaws.
Several motions are pending before the court, including one by the association to dismiss the case.
A date for trial, which would be held before a jury and presided over by Judge Wiley Y. Daniel, has not been set, according to court documents.
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Peter Arnold’s playing career ended after high school, but his time on the ice continues a few decades later. A longtime USA Hockey official and new Aspen resident, Arnold is searching for the next generation of hockey referees among the youth ranks here in the Roaring Fork Valley.