Appeals Court: PR Condo Association Discriminated Against Resident with Disabilities

HUD recently announced that it has won an important appeal in a fair housing case against a Puerto Rico condominium association for discriminating against a resident with disabilities by refusing to allow him to keep an emotional support animal.

Federal fair housing law requires that housing providers, including condominium and homeowners associations, grant reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, or practices when such accommodations are necessary to afford a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing. This includes waiving “no pet” rules to allow emotional support animals.

In 2014, HUD found that the condo association violated the rights of a homeowner with disabilities by refusing to allow him to keep an emotional support animal as a reasonable accommodation to its “no pets” policy. HUD found that the homeowner was forced to sell his condominium and find alternative housing and ordered the association to pay $20,000 in damages to the homeowner, along with a $16,000 civil penalty. The association appealed.

In early May 2016, the court upheld HUD’s decision that the association violated fair housing and ordered it to pay the damages and penalty.

“The decision is a victory for HUD, but an even greater victory for people with disabilities,” Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “Not only does the decision reaffirm HUD’s authority to vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act, it also reinforces the importance of protecting the rights of residents with disabilities to have the reasonable accommodations they need.”