Northern California landlords have settled pet discrimination allegations that they and their agents discriminated against a female tenant with disabilities who requires an assistance animal, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California(FHANC) filed a complaint alleging that the owner of the properties (Shultz Investment Co.), representatives of its management company (Greenbrae Management, Inc.) and its leasing agents discriminated against a resident who has a medical condition and required a service dog at the Bon Air Apartments in Greenbrae, California.
The fair housing group also claimed the woman, who had lived at the property for more than 15 years, was subjected to discriminatory statements and retaliation due to the presence of her assistance animal, including false accusations that the animal was disruptive, that it bit maintenance workers, and that it was not a service animal under California law, according to the release.
The woman’s Housing Assistance Program voucher was ultimately cancelled, forcing her to find housing elsewhere.
HUD investigation confirmed discriminatory statements by property managers
A subsequent HUD investigation corroborated the woman’s need for the dog and discovered written discriminatory statements made by the property managers, according to a HUD release.
HUD found no evidence indicating that the animal was disruptive or had bitten anyone.
“Landlords are required to provide a reasonable accommodation for individuals who require assistance animals,” Bryan Greene, HUD General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in the release.
“HUD is committed to make certain that landlords meet this obligation under the nation’s fair housing laws.
Landlords will pay $72,000 in pet discrimination agreement
Under the Conciliation Agreement, the respondents will pay the woman $31,000; pay Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California $41,000; and develop and implement a reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification policy consistent with the Fair Housing Act.
The owners will also revise their standard lease to be consistent with the new accommodations policy; send a letter to current tenants notifying them of the new policy; and obtain fair housing training.
“On an ongoing basis, our agency receives many calls from people with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations,” Caroline Peattie, FHANC’s Executive Director, said in the release. “Many of those calls concern service and companion animals; both must receive the same consideration under fair housing law. When a person with a disability requests an accommodation, the housing providers may require documentation that there is a disability and that the request will address that need, but they are required to consider each request individually and engage in an interactive dialogue with the tenant.”
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing opportunities to persons with disabilities or imposing different rental terms and conditions. This includes refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices for people with disabilities.
In addition to the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against discrimination based on disability, HUD provided guidance in April 2013 reaffirming that housing providers must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities who require assistance animals.
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California is a non-profit organization serving several Bay Area counties that provides free counseling, enforcement, mediation, and legal or administrative referrals to persons experiencing housing discrimination. Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California also offers foreclosure prevention services, pre-purchase education, seminars to help housing providers fully understand fair housing law, and education programs for tenants and the community at large. Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California is a HUD-Certified Housing Counseling Agency.