|HUD No. 21-074
HUD Public Affairs
April 28, 2021
HUD CHARGES ALABAMA LANDLORD WITH HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
Owner’s “no-pets” policy unlawfully precluded assistance animals
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging an owner of an apartment complex in Florence, Alabama, with violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent a unit to a prospective tenant with disabilities who uses an assistance animal. Read HUD's charge.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against people with disabilities, including refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when such accommodations may be necessary to provide them an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling. This includes permitting persons with disabilities to have service or assistance animals. Housing providers may not prohibit people with disabilities from having assistance animals that perform work or tasks, or that provide disability-related emotional support. That means a housing provider that otherwise enforces a “no-pets” policy must waive it for a prospective renter or resident who needs an assistance animal because of a disability.
“Refusing to permit individuals who rely on assistance animals to live with their animals not only prevents them from obtaining housing they desperately need, it is also against the law,” said Jeanine Worden, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD remains committed to ensuring that housing providers recognize and meet their obligation to comply with the Fair Housing Act, including its reasonable accommodation requirements.”
“When housing providers refuse to waive “no-pets” policies for prospective renters or residents who rely on assistance animals, they are violating the Fair Housing Act,” said Damon Smith, Principal Deputy General Counsel for HUD’s Office of General Counsel. “HUD will continue to enforce the Act on behalf of persons with disabilities who are denied reasonable accommodations needed to use and enjoy their homes.”
According to the HUD charge, a woman who uses an assistance animal filed a complaint with HUD after she was denied the opportunity to rent an apartment she saw online because of the owner’s “no-pets” policy. When the woman called to inquire about the unit, the owner allegedly asked if she had a pet, and when the woman stated she had an assistance animal, the owner told her that she did not allow pets or animals and terminated the call.
HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless either party elects for the case to be heard in federal court. If the administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, the judge may award damages to the complainant for 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) 877-8339 (Relay). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing. For more information about assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act, please see: HUD's Website.