Last week the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a federal judge in Nevada approved a $167,000 settlement in a housing discrimination case involving the owners and operators of a 902 unit apartment complex in Reno, NV. The case involved allegations that the apartment community discriminated against individuals with disabilities who use assistance animals.
Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, $127,500 will be paid to a family that was not permitted to move into the complex because a household member used an assistance animal as well as to the local fair housing advocacy group which brought the case. Additionally, another $25,000 will be paid to compensate other individuals harmed by the allegedly discriminatory housing practices if those people can be identified through a process detailed in the agreement. Finally, the defendants will pay a $15,000 civil monetary penalty to the United States.
As is common in cases like this, the defendants also promised to develop a policy to permit assistance animals, to provide fair housing training, and agreed to various monitoring/recordkeeping requirements.
DOJ’s complaint alleged the owners and managers at the property violated the Fair Housing Act by limiting individuals with assistance animals to a certain section of the community, required assistance animals to be licensed and/or certified, subjected animal owners to pet fees, and/or prevented service animals altogether. The fair housing agency initially filed a complaint with HUD, and after issuing a charge of discrmination, HUD referred the case to DOJ.
This case is yet another example of what can go wrong if management and leasing office staff are not properly trained with respect to permitting the use of assistance animals by disabled applicants and residents. If you or your management company have questions about assistance animals and the accommodations required under applicable law, please reach out for training. Or you may really need to speak with a lawyer like me.
Just A Thought.