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Apartment Owners Pay More than $70K in Pet Suit

Service Dog Discrimination

Under the agreement, apartment owner and management company will compensate female tenant with disabilities who requires an assistance animal.

A Northern California fair housing organization and the owners and managers of two apartment communities in Greenbrae, Calif., have come to an agreement in a discrimination lawsuit, according to an announcement from The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The agreement resolves allegations the owners and their agents discriminated against a female tenant with disabilities who requires an assistance animal.

The Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California (FHANC) filed a complaint alleging that Shultz Investment Co., the owner of the apartment communities, and its management firm, Greenbrae Management, discriminated against a resident who has a medical condition and requires a service dog. The animal alerts her when she is experiencing physiological changes and helps to ameliorate many of her disability-related symptoms.

Under the Conciliation Agreement, the respondents will pay the woman $31,000, pay Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California $41,000, and develop and implement a reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification policy consistent with the Fair Housing Act. The owners will also revise their standard lease to be consistent with the new accommodations policy, send a letter to current tenants notifying them of the new policy, and obtain fair housing training.

The fair housing group also claimed the woman, who had lived at the property for more than 15 years, was subjected to discriminatory statements and retaliation due to the presence of her assistance animal, including false accusations that the animal was disruptive, that it bit maintenance workers and that it was not a service animal under California law. The woman’s Housing Assistance Program voucher was ultimately cancelled, forcing her to find housing elsewhere, according to the HUD release.

A subsequent HUD investigation corroborated the woman’s need for the dog and discovered written discriminatory statements made by the property managers. HUD found no evidence indicating that the animal was disruptive or had bitten anyone.

In addition to the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against discrimination based on disability, HUD provided guidance in April 2013 reaffirming that housing providers must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities who require assistance animals.