WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged Madison Property, LLC, the owner of an apartment complex in Winona, Minnesota, and landlord Andrew Brenner with violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow a prospective tenant, a woman with a mental health disability, to live with her assistance animal. Read the Charge.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination because of disability. This includes refusing to grant reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, such as refusing to waive pet restrictions so that persons with disabilities can live with their assistance animals.
“Assistance animals provide people with disabilities the support they need to enjoy the benefits of their housing,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s Principal Assistant Deputy Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is committed to taking appropriate action when housing providers fail to comply with the Fair Housing Act.”
HUD’s Charge alleges that the landlord denied the applicant’s reasonable accommodation request to live with her assistance animal and rescinded the offer of a lease when her disability-related need was presented. According to the Charge, the applicant supported her reasonable accommodation request with a letter from her therapist. This letter provided all the information the landlord needed to approve her request, and the applicant even included information from HUD on the right to a reasonable accommodation. Nevertheless, the landlord refused to consider the request and told her to look elsewhere. He then told her he would return her security deposit and rescinded his lease offer. The applicant was then forced to seek another place to live under a tight time deadline.
“The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations to policies, including animal prohibitions, when such an accommodation is necessary for an individual with disabilities to have equal enjoyment of housing,” said Damon Smith, HUD General Counsel. “As this Charge shows, housing providers may not refuse to allow individuals with disabilities the aid that assistance animals can provide.”
A United States Administrative Law Judge will hear HUD’s Charge unless any party to the Charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds, after a hearing, that discrimination has occurred, the judge may award damages to the applicant for her losses because of the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties to vindicate the public interest. If the federal court hears the case, the judge may also award punitive damages to the applicant.
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.