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Homeowner’s association threatening fines for essential worker’s van in driveway

Al Stephens threatened with fines related to work van

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. – Al Stephens, 64, has been working for Consumers Energy for 35 years.

“We had so many cases in the coronavirus and our headquarters I sent them an email letting them know in advance and I found out about they're gonna ask us to work from home,” said Stephens.

In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, his workflow has changed. Since he’s now considered an essential worker, rather than going into the office first, he’s been given the green light by his employers to take his work van home to reduce contact.

“I have no other place to park this vehicle,” Stephens said.

But the Halstead Commons Condominium Association feels differently and has threatened Stephens with fines if he doesn’t remove the van from his own driveway.

“They went as far as to tell me if I (didn’t have) my vehicle off the premises by April 22 at five o’clock, (they) will take legal action against me and fine me,” Stephens said.

Lawyers representing the association claim this has been an issue going back two years, and that they’re waiting for any type of document showing where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order specifically states Stephens has the right to park the commercial van at his own home. According to emails, they also claim they have no interest in speaking with Consumers Energy’s CEO or its attorney.

Until this dispute is settled, however, Stephens said he’s not letting this situation dissuade him from serving his community in a time he’s needed the most.

“Until this is somewhat under control, I wish they would allow me to be able to service our customers and give great customer value, and I just can’t take this vehicle and park it anywhere," Stephens said. “I mean, it’s not mine. I’m a true professional at what I do, truly care about my community."

Here is a statement from Hirzel Law, PLC:

"This issue with Mr. Albert Stephens’s commercial vehicle is an issue that began two years before the coronavirus pandemic. We understand that it is now his position that the governor’s executive orders permit him to park his commercial vehicle in his driveway. The association appreciates the work that he provides as an essential worker. Unfortunately, the fact that he may be considered an essential worker by his employer does not appear to create an exception for him or for the association.

“We have attempted to determine which executive order he is relying on and which provision of that executive order he is relying on, but so far we have not received a response. The association would consider any such information if it were provided, just as the association would consider a request for an accommodation if it were made. In the absence of such information, though, Mr. Stephens is a member of a condominium association and that association has an obligation to enforce its condominium bylaws as written, and on this issue the documents require him to park his commercial vehicle in his garage if he chooses to bring it home.”

Here is a statement from Consumers Energy:

To maintain social distancing and reduce exposure risk to our co-workers performing essential utility work, we have implemented an interim home reporting policy. The policy requires co-workers to report directly to their job site from their homes keeping them safe and healthy. To enable this, many are taking their work vehicles home at night to eliminate an unnecessary visit to a company facility. We appreciate customers’ patience as we implement these measures in order to safely provide the best, most timely service to our customers.”