The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced an agreement between a Northern California fair housing organization and the owners and managers of two apartment complexes in Greenbrae, California. The agreement resolves allegations the owners and their agents discriminated against a female tenant with disabilities who requires an assistance animal. Read the Conciliation Agreement.
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.
“Landlords are required to provide a reasonable accommodation for individuals who require assistance animals,” said Bryan Greene, HUD General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is committed to make certain that landlords meet this obligation under the nation’s fair housing laws.”
The case came to HUD’s attention when the group Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California 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 requires a service dog. The animal alerts her when she is experiencing physiological changes and helps to ameliorate many of her disability-related symptoms.
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. The woman’s Housing Assistance Program voucher was ultimately cancelled, forcing her to find housing elsewhere.
A subsequent HUD investigation corroborated the woman’s need for the dog and discovered written discriminatory statements made by the property managers. HUD found no evidence indicating that the animal was disruptive or had bitten anyone.
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.
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. Read HUD’s notice.
Disability is the most common basis of fair housing complaint filed with HUD and its partner agencies. Last year alone, HUD and its partners considered over 4,900 disability-related complaints, or more than 58 percent of all fair housing complaints that were filed.
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) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple and Android devices.