Calif. Community to Pay $72K to Settle Complaint Involving Assistance Animal

HUD recently announced that the owners and managers of two California apartment complexes has agreed to pay $72,000 to resolve allegations of discrimination against a female resident with disabilities who requires an assistance animal.

The case came to HUD’s attention when a Northern California fair housing group filed a complaint alleging that the owner and its agents discriminated against a resident who has a medical condition and requires a service dog. Allegedly, the animal alerts the resident when she is experiencing physiological changes and helps to ameliorate many of her disability-related symptoms.

The fair housing group also claimed the resident, who had lived at the property for more than 15 years, was subjected to discriminatory statements and retaliation due to the presence of her assistance animal, including false accusations that the animal was disruptive, that it bit maintenance workers, and that it was not a service animal under California law. The complaint claimed that the resident’s Housing Assistance Program voucher was ultimately cancelled, forcing her to find housing elsewhere.

HUD reported that its subsequent investigation corroborated the resident’s need for the dog and discovered written discriminatory statements made by the property managers. HUD found no evidence indicating that the animal was disruptive or had bitten anyone.

The settlement requires the owners and managers to pay $31,000 to the resident and to pay $41,000 to the fair housing group. Among other things, the owners also agreed to develop and implement a reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification policy consistent with fair housing law.

“Landlords are required to provide a reasonable accommodation for individuals who require assistance animals,” Bryan Greene, HUD General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “HUD is committed to make certain that landlords meet this obligation under the nation’s fair housing laws.”