Owners of a Reno, Nevada, housing complex and a local property management company are being ordered to pay a prospective tenant $6,000 after they reportedly denied her request for a service animal, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“Forcing persons with disabilities to live without the assistance animals they depend on denies them the opportunity to fully enjoy their home,” said Anna María Farías, HUD assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. “This case was resolved quickly and represents our continued commitment to protecting the rights of persons who require such accommodations and ensuring that housing providers meet their obligation to comply with the nation’s fair housing laws.”
The alleged victim filed a Fair Housing Act complaint with HUD, in which she alleged that Delta House Investments — the limited liability corporation that owns the housing unit — and Premier Realty — the property management firm — denied her request for a service animal, despite documentation from her doctor that proved the need of such an animal.
The leasing agent told the woman that the owner would not allow pets because the floors had recently been updated to hardwood, according to the complaint. After her request was denied, the woman did not pursue the rental and opted instead to file the complaint.
The Fair Housing Act — part of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1968 — makes it illegal to deny an individual housing based on a disability. It also requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices to provide individuals with disabilities housing. That includes, in some cases, waiving a “no-pets” policy.
Under the terms of a conciliation agreement approved by HUD, the two defendants will pay the woman $6,000 and also be forced to undergo fair housing training. Additionally, they agreed to adopt reasonable accommodation policies that assess requests for service animals on a timely basis and maintain records related to those requests.
Earlier that month in Washington, D.C., at the National Association of Realtors’ midyear conference, HUD Secretary Ben Carson criticized the online certifications that individuals use to try and obtain permission to have a service animal. He also reaffirmed the department’s ban on non-traditional service animals.
“Really, it needs to be a legit healthcare provider that can document that there’s a true disability and that a support animal is needed,” Carson said at the conference.
A recent study from the National Fair Housing Alliance found that individuals with disabilities make up more than half of all violations of the Fair Housing Act.