|HUD No. 20-037
HUD Public Affairs
February 27, 2020
HUD CHARGES NEW YORK LANDLORD WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST RESIDENT WITH DISABILITIES
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it has charged an Oneida, New York, property owner with illegal discrimination for denying the reasonable accommodation request of a resident with mental disabilities. HUD's charge further alleges that the owner attempted to charge the resident extra fees for having an assistance animal, made threats to intimidate and deter her from exercising her fair housing rights, and eventually evicted her. Read HUD's charge.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodation may be necessary to afford a person with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. The Act also prohibits housing providers from threatening and coercing persons who seek to exercise their fair housing rights.
"It is important that individuals with disabilities are allowed to have the reasonable accommodations they need to fully utilize the place they call home without having to meet extra requirements," said Anna María Farías, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD will continue fighting to protect the rights of individuals and families when housing providers fail to meet their obligations under the law."
The case came to HUD's attention when a woman with disabilities filed a complaint. The Charge alleges that prior to moving into her apartment, the woman had informed the owner that her dog is an assistance animal and that he could not charge her a pet fee. After she moved into her apartment, the owner of the building required her to sign a second lease which specified that she would be responsible for paying a monthly pet fee of $50, a cleaning charge of $575, and a $350 pet security deposit. The Charge further alleges that the woman was required to sign a "Lease Addendum For Dog In Apartment" that stated the monthly pet fee was temporarily waived, but she could be charged the monthly fee retroactively if she discussed the accommodation/waiver of the fee with other tenants. Despite initially waiving the monthly pet fee, the landlord eventually voided the waiver and demanded that she pay it. According to the Charge, after she refused to pay the fees, the owner terminated her lease and later threatened to sue her if she attempted to enforce her rights under the Act in court.
"HUD is committed to ensuring that individuals with disabilities are not denied the protections afforded them by the Fair Housing Act," said Paul Compton, HUD's General Counsel. "Providing reasonable accommodations is an essential part of a housing provider's legal obligation to make housing available to persons with disabilities."
HUD's charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge. If the judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he or she may award damages to the complainant for her losses, 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.