Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that a disability discrimination claim from California settled for $8,500. The agreement resolved a complaint filed by a resident with a disability asserting discrimination under the Fair Housing Act related to an assistance animal. In the complaint, the resident alleged that she was threatened with eviction because she had an emotional support animal.
The matter came to HUD after the resident filed a complaint alleging the property manager told her that she could not keep her dog and threatened to evict her. The resident further noted that she previously provided a medical verification confirming her need for the assistance animal. The complaint also alleged that after receiving an eviction notice, the resident vacated the home. As there are always two sides to every case, the housing providers deny that they discriminated against the woman.
As is typical in cases like this, in additional to writing a check, the housing providers are required to provide fair housing training to their management and leasing staff.
The takeaway? As a management company or leasing office staff member reviewing a reasonable accommodation request, for disabilities that are not obvious, we simply seek credible medical verification (something that is not a form letter purchased over the Internet for the low, low price of $69.99 [or $125 if you need it overnight] and/or a certificate from a nationwide animal registry) attesting to the fact that the resident is disabled, needs an assistance animal, and that there is a nexus (or link) between the animal and the disability.
If you have questions about a medical verification, you might want to speak with a lawyer like me to better evaluate how to appropriately respond to your resident. Or you might wind up as a Respondent in a fair housing case.
Just A Thought.