California Community Pays $36,000 to Settle Dispute Involving Service Animal

The owner and property manager of a California community recently agreed to pay $36,000 to resolve a disability discrimination case filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). A prospect filed the complaint, alleging that an offer to rent was abruptly withdrawn when the respondents learned that she had a service animal.

In her complaint filed with the DFEH, the prospect said that she toured the property with the property manager, and the owner agreed to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program for her. She said they extended an offer to rent and gave her a rental application, but upon learning that she had a dog, the property manager called the prospect citing the property’s no-pets policy. Although she said she explained that her dog was a service animal and provided supporting documentation, the property manager and owner refused to accommodate her by waiving the property’s no-pets policy. As a result, the complainant was homeless for approximately one and a half months as she searched for alternative housing.

Based on its investigation, DFEH found cause to believe that a violation of state fair housing laws occurred and referred the case to DFEH’s Dispute Resolution Division, which provides no-cost mandatory dispute resolution services in cases DFEH intends to prosecute in court.

In addition to the monetary payment, the settlement requires the property owner, management company, and property manager to undergo fair housing training; develop, implement, and distribute a written anti-discrimination policy and a written policy specific to reasonable accommodation requests; post DFEH fair housing posters in all rental properties they own or manage in California; and advertise themselves as equal opportunity housing providers.

“In order for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy rental housing, they may require the assistance of a service animal, which is not a pet. Housing providers must make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, including waiving no-pets policies for service animals,” DFEH Director Kevin Kish said in a statement.