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Home · Property Management · Latest News : No Pets Policy Sends Landlords to the Doghouse

doghouseHUD is charging a housing cooperative in the Bronx, and two of its employees, with violating the Fair Housing Act after they denied a disabled mans request for an emotional support dog.

According to the charge, when the tenant first moved into the Co-op, he signed an occupancy agreement that had a no pets provision.

A number of years later, the tenant requested a reasonable accommodation to the Co-ops no pets policy so that he could keep a service animal his doctor had prescribed to assist with his daily living.

The tenant had letters from his doctor and the City of New Yorks Department of Health and Mental Hygiene verifying the animals service status and the tenants need to retain his service dog. Still, the landlords allegedly denied the tenants request for an accommodation, stating that there was no evidence to show his disability required a support animal.

The landlords then refused to accept the tenants rent payments, threatened to suspend his garage privileges, and attempted to evict him from his apartment.

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation in its rules, policies, practices, or services when needed to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling. It is also illegal to intimidate, threaten or interfere with any person for exercising their fair housing rights.

HUD further alleges that the Co-ops security director failed to ensure that the security officers he supervised did not harass the tenant and his wife for keeping the service animal, even though the tenant specifically asked him to do so.

HUDs charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge 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, he may award damages to aggrieved persons for the damages caused them by 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 fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to aggrieved persons.

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  • Joe

    Wow, I think I side on the tenants on this one. If an animal is a service animal, it is allowed, regardless of the type of service it provides. The tenant is still responsible for any damages the animal causes.

  • Ron in Colorado

    Bottom line. The Tenant is not forced to live any where. They can move at will. What if the tenants doctor say he needs air conditioning or a hot tub for joint pain. Would the owner be liable for not spending $$$$ to accommodate that person needs, or would it be better for the tenant to move to a house/apartment with those amenities?

    If a situation like this happens I could see allowing the tenant to break the lease and move.

    And the tenant would be responsible for the damage done by the pets? The deposit is $700 the cost to replace carpet $1000. Most tenants know when they are not going to get a full deposit back so they’ll stop paying rent, water bills, etc. then move out w/o notice, then the damage deposit is a pittance for the total financial damage.

  • MachoPichu

    @Ron in Colorado

    Ron, I think you misunderstand the HUD guidelines and would be just as liable like the foolish landlord mentioned in this article. At no additional cost to the landlord, they could have accommodated this tenant’s request. Obviously if the dog ended up causing damage the landlord would have grounds to seek compensation from the tenant. Sure the tenant can up and move to a property that already allows pets but he doesn’t have to because he already has a home. Getting sick is not a reason to be required to move which is why HUD includes this type of protection for tenants.

    As for your comment “what if the tenant’s doctor say he needs air conditioning or a hot tub for joint pain”, obviously the expense to add air conditioning and a hot-tub would be absorbed by the tenant if the building could accommodate it. HUD does not mandate that landlords pay added costs for people’s medical conditions.

  • jbateni

    Sometimes older buildings have dormant fleas living in them. When a pet enters they activate and start biting everyone. So it could be a health related issue for other tenants. I had to move out of an apartment that a no pets policy but when I complained about the cats I was told they allowed cats. The fleas were eating us up so we moved up stairs and in another part of the building and didn’t have fleas. This is not a black and white issue there are areas of gray.

  • Daniel

    “The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation in its rules, policies, practices, or services when needed to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling.”

    1. It was already agreed to by the tenant not to have pets of any kind and it is a state of unreasonable to permit any pets
    2. the use of service animal is a broad step away from its original meaning. it used to be for the blind only, and it only recently has been given a broad range of applications. And it should not be permitted under the current situation.

  • jdsmms

    Although we have a standing “No Pet” rule in all our units, we don’t have a problem with service dogs. But “companion animals” (dogs or cats)” are another issue. Tenants tell their doctors they’d like to have a cat but their landlords have a no pet policy, and all of a sudden, we have a doctor’s order that we make accommodations for a “companion animal!” We have a no pet policy for a reason! I think rather than force US to accommodate, the tenant should move to a pet friendly place.
    Yes, it’s great to have a security deposit to fix the damage…… but how do we fix the damage pets do to a 125 year old home on the historical register with original woodwork finish and flooring??? I agree with “jbateni” there are a lot of grey areas and a case by case basis might be more equitable.

  • MachoPichu

    @jdsmms

    “…letters from his doctor and the City of New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene verifying the animal’s service status and the tenant’s need to retain his service dog”

    The above was paraphrased from the article. The tenant in this case had a letter from the N.Y. Dept. Health and Mental Hygiene in addition to his doctor’s letter. What separates a good landlord from a scumbag landlord is how they deal with issues that they oppose. The landlord had every opportunity to take the case to court and fight the request to allow the dog. But instead, the landlord’s reaction to the request was to harass the tenant. Is that ever acceptable? Does anyone in this forum actually believe that it’s okay to have your security guards single out an individual and intimidate him just because the state allows him to have a dog? To me, it’s insane behavior for any legitimate landlord to use guards to target and intimidate tenants for ANY reason. Guards are meant to protect people, deter wrong-doing, and secure property — not behave like hired thugs. The damages against the landlord in this case should be the most severe.

  • Joe

    Geez maybe tenants should screen landlords. . . Ron

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