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HUD No. 21-085
HUD Public Affairs
(202) 708-0685
FOR RELEASE
Wednesday
May 12, 2021

HUD CHARGES INDIANA HOUSING PROVIDERS WITH DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION FOR REFUSING TO PERMIT APPLICANT TO HAVE AN ASSISTANCE ANIMAL


WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging Bloomington, Indiana’s Burnham Rentals, LLC, Burnham Place Apartments, LLC, two of its employees and others, with violating the Fair Housing Act’s bar on disability discrimination. HUD’s charge alleges that the housing providers refused to permit a rising Indiana University graduate student, who has depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, to keep an assistance animal in an apartment. In addition, HUD’s charge alleges that the housing providers used the building’s “no pets” policy as justification to deny the student’s request to live with her assistance animal, effectively denying her access to the housing. 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 when necessary to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling. This includes refusing to rent to people with disabilities who have assistance animals that perform work or tasks, or that provide disability-related emotional support. “Not allowing someone with mental health disabilities to keep an assistance animal robs them of their independence as well as the opportunity to fully enjoy their home,” said Jeanine Worden, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD remains committed to ensuring that the owners of rental housing meet their obligations under the nation’s fair housing laws.”

“Often people with mental health disabilities who request reasonable accommodations face discrimination because their disabilities are not visible. HUD works to ensure that the rights of individuals with ‘invisible’ disabilities are fully visible and enforced,” said Damon Smith, HUD’s Principal Deputy General Counsel.

HUD’s charge alleges that the graduate student used the assistance animal, a cat, to ameliorate her symptoms in lieu of medication that caused her side effects. With her doctor’s support and monitoring, she found relief with the assistance animal. The housing providers, however, allegedly denied her request to keep the animal, resulting in the student being forced to rent another, more expensive, apartment farther from the university.

This month, HUD is commemorating Mental Health Awareness Month 2021 with the launch of a new campaign that will educate the public about the various forms of housing discrimination faced by people with mental health, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, and what they should do if they believe their housing rights have been violated. To access the campaign’s educational materials, visit FHEO’s Outreach Tools page.

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, after a hearing, the administrative law judge finds 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 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to hud.gov/fairhousing.

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