A California fair housing case that settled last month provides a cautionary tale for all in the property management arena concerning lease termination and disability. None of us in the professional apartment business would knowingly end a tenancy because a resident has a disability, right? And further we would not move against someone because he or she needed an ambulance or other medical care, right?
Here is what is claimed to have happened in this case: The resident asserted that her lease was unlawfully terminated because of her disability. Specifically, the complaint alleged that because of various medical emergencies (that required the assistance of an ambulance on more than one occasion) as well as complaints from other residents about the visits from the first responders, the property manager terminated her residential lease.
While I always report there are two sides to every story (and I was not involved here), the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) found probable cause to believe discrimination occurred and that, in fact, management ended the lease because “they disfavor tenants with disabilities.” The apartment complex owner paid $50,000 to settle the case.
The key here, of course, is the reason for the medical emergencies and did the property manager know about the disability? I was recently involved in another matter in which the allegations were similar – except that the reasons for the multiple ambulance and police visits to the property were because of repeated fighting and violence – not because of a legitimate disability. Every resident can be required to follow community rules and a good neighbor policy. And no resident with a legitimate disability should have his or her lease terminated because of that disability. But, similarly, no resident should call 911 night after night because of fighting and not expect management to enforce its community rules. There is a line there that we have to follow.
Just A Thought.