A recent trend in housing discrimination claims involves companion animals. Where a landlord maintains a no-pets policy, those rules may have to be suspended in the case of tenants with disabilities.
Massachusetts housing officials this week awarded $25,000 to a tenant who was threatened with eviction after refusing to give up a dog he brought into his apartment in violation of the landlord’s no-pets policy. The tenant testified that the dog was recommended by his doctor to help the man cope with HIV.
The landlord has vowed to appeal because they say the tenant initially did not inform them of his disability or ask to keep the dog as an accommodation.
While this case was prosecuted under state rules, HUD has made it clear that companion animals are protected under the FHA and disabilities statutes at the federal level. Landlords must accommodate a request for a companion animal without penalties to the tenant with a disability. For instance, the landlord cannot charge higher rent or add on fees.
Last year, a Fargo, North Dakota landlord was charged with discrimination for charging a nonrefundable deposit of $200, plus $20 more per month rent to tenants with disabilities who owned companion animals.
By contrast, however, a New York condo association has been given the green light to evict a disabled woman over a dog she claimed was a companion animal. In that case, the dog belongs to the woman’s daughter and only visits from time to time. The woman taught the dog to accompany her when she sings in her apartment, and neighbors complained about the noise.
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