In a press release dated yesterday, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) stated that it charged a residential property owner (and an agent) in Maine with violating the Fair Housing Act (FHA) related to an assistance animal for a disabled veteran.
Factually, HUD asserts the veteran has had an assistance dog since 2015. The prospective resident saw an online advertisement for a home and called to discuss terms and finances. During a second telephone call, the complainant noted he has an assistance animal because of a disability. The complaint alleges the manager said “absolutely not” as she regretted permitting a prior tenant to have an assistance animal because other residents then wanted to get an animal for a pet. Once a local fair housing group got involved, a subsequent test was conducted at the property. At which time the manager stated having an assistance animal would be grounds for eviction. And the telephone call during the test, HUD claims, was recorded and corroborates the allegations.
There are, of course, two sides to every story and I read fair housing complaints regularly. But it is typically cases with strong facts that get charged. Here, the complaint claims a property manager flatly refused to consider assistance animals for individuals with disabilities because other residents would want a pet and further that assistance animals are grounds for eviction. Making the facts even more difficult for management is that the prospective renter here was a veteran. That can be a challenging look.
As has been written here before, professional apartment management cannot simply reject assistance animals out of hand. We must go through the process. Am I writing that every accommodation request must necessarily be approved? Of course not. But every request must be evaluated and responded to – in such a manner that if our actions are subjected to scrutiny, we can be comfortable that we followed the law.
Just A Thought.