|HUD No. 19-094
HUD Public Affairs
June 21, 2019
HUD CHARGES MINNESOTA LANDLORDS WITH HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced that it is charging the owners of several rental homes in Ottertail, Minnesota, with housing discrimination. According to HUD, the owners allegedly refused to allow a single mother to live with an assistance animal, a cat, for her oldest daughter, who has mental disabilities, and for terminating her lease agreement in response to the mother's reasonable-accommodation request. Read HUD's charge.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing to people with disabilities, or from refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices for people with disabilities. This includes not allowing people with disabilities (impairments that substantially limit major life activities) to have assistance animals that perform work or tasks, or that provide disability-related emotional support. In addition, the Act prohibits housing providers from retaliating against people who exercise their fair housing rights, such as filing a complaint with HUD.
"For individuals with mental disabilities, assistance animals provide the support they need to perform life's daily tasks," said Anna María Farías, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "Today's action demonstrates HUD's ongoing commitment to taking appropriate action when housing providers fail to meet their obligations to comply with the Fair Housing Act."
"When an individual is entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act, a housing provider is obligated to provide it," said HUD General Counsel Paul Compton. "HUD is committed to holding housing providers responsible for any failure to follow the law."
The case came to HUD's attention when a mother of three minor children filed a complaint alleging that the owners of a townhouse refused to rent her the home for which she had signed a lease agreement because she asked them to permit her oldest daughter's assistance animal to live in the home. HUD's charge alleges that the owners refused to allow the assistance animal in the home, even though the woman provided documentation from her daughter's therapist attesting to the need for the assistance animal and how it addressed the girl's condition. Concurrently with the denial of the reasonable-accommodation request, the owners terminated the lease agreement before the family could even move in. HUD's charge further alleges that the woman informed the owners of their responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act and its protections for individuals with disabilities and asked that they reconsider her request. The owners refused to do so, and the family was forced to find other housing.
HUD's charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party elects for the case to be heard in federal court. If the administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the complainant and her family for their losses that have resulted from the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest.
People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to hud.gov/fair housing, or by downloading HUD's free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple and Android devices.