Fair Housing vs. Unfair Housing

Do you know the difference?

Knowing the difference between fair housing and unfair housing isn't as obvious as you might think. This blog aims to present a variety of important and interesting fair housing issues.

If you're an apartment professional, avoid costly mistakes by reading the stories of others who — even with good intentions — learned compliance lessons the hard way. (For the easy way, click here.)

If you live in an apartment, get familiar with your rights when it comes to housing discrimination, as well as your options for seeking justice.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Veteran Soldiers On in Fair Housing Disability Battle Against Landlord

A Vietnam War veteran wanted to keep a dog in his Highland, New York apartment to control the anxiety and fears he still encounters as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and seizure disorder. After obtaining a doctor's note recommending the dog, the tenant requested that his landlord make an exception to the building's no-pets policy.

Although the landlord acknowledged that he had heard of dogs helping people with seizures, he refused to grant the tenant's request. The landlord explained that if the tenant needs a dog, he should live in a building that allows dogs. No animals means no animals, he insisted.

But federal law says otherwise, as the landlord is no doubt learning. While the landlord's no-pets policy may be perfectly legal as written, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires him to grant tenants' requests to keep an animal as a reasonable accommodation for a disability.

Not giving up, the tenant complained about the landlord to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the New York State Division of Human Rights. He tried again to explain to the landlord that he needed a specially trained dog as a reasonable accommodation for a legitimate disability.

But the landlord once more denied the tenant's request, unconvinced by the allegations in the housing discrimination complaints lodged against him. Plus, in an apparent act of retaliation, the landlord allegedly ordered the tenant, who was living in the apartment on a month-to-month basis, to look for new housing.

HUD this month issued a Charge of Discrimination against the landlord, declaring that the landlord violated the FHA's ban on disability-based discrimination. An administrative law judge (ALJ) will hear the case and may award damages, attorneys' fees, civil penalties (of up to $16,000 per violation), and other relief.

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