WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged The Links South at Harbour Village Condominium Association, in Ponce Inlet, Florida, with discrimination because of disability when it denied a reasonable accommodation request.  Specifically, because of the husband’s respiratory disabilities, a couple asked to be able to keep their shoes outside their unit in order to limit exposure to outdoor allergens, chemicals or pollutants inside their home. Read HUD’s Charge.

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.

“It is critically important that individuals with disabilities be granted the reasonable accommodations they need to use and enjoy the place they call home,” said Jeanine Worden, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “When a person with a disability requests a reasonable accommodation, a small exception or modification to a housing provider’s rules can make a big difference in the health and well-being of an individual with a disability.”

The case came to HUD’s attention when a married couple filed a complaint of housing discrimination.  The husband, a retired New York City sanitation superintendent, spent more than 400 days removing debris from the World Trade Center site after September 11th.  As a result, he was diagnosed with upper respiratory disabilities and other medical conditions that are certified for coverage under the World Trade Center Health Program.  HUD’s Charge alleges that the condominium community’s homeowner association refused to allow the couple to keep their shoes outside the front door to prevent tracking in contaminants that negatively impact the husband due to his disability.  The Charge further alleges that the couple provided medical documentation from the husband’s physician advising of the need to keep their home free from outdoor allergens, chemicals, or pollutants.  Nevertheless, the homeowner association refused to grant the couple’s accommodation request, and instead made repeated demands for further documentation.

“Refusing to grant reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities is simply illegal, and so is making repeated requests for unnecessary documentation,” said Damon Smith, HUD’s General Counsel.  “HUD is dedicated to eliminating barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from having an equal opportunity to enjoy their homes.”

HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge. If, after a hearing, the administrative law judge finds that discrimination has occurred, the judge may award damages to the complainants for their losses that have resulted from the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest.

People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (Relay). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to hud.gov/fairhousing.