COACH's Pop Quiz!
Q: Three months after a new resident moves in, your community learns that she has a cat in violation of your no-pet policy. A manager tells her that she must remove the cat or face eviction, but the resident asks to keep it, explaining that she has physical and mental impairments and that she needs the cat for emotional support. Eventually, she submits documentation from her treating doctor, which describes her mental and physical impairments and states that an emotional support animal “would ease her anxiety and depression” and could “benefit her by improving her medical symptoms.” Could you face a fair housing claim by asking for more information before granting her request?
A: Yes, according to a federal court, which ruled that a California community violated fair housing law by denying a resident’s request to keep the cat as a reasonable accommodation for her disability and retaliating against her for exercising her rights under fair housing law.
The court ruled that the community refused to provide her with a reasonable accommodation by responding to her repeated requests with denial and delay. The court rejected the community’s claims that it merely asked for documentation and never denied her accommodation request—at the same time that it was asking for more information, it was also taking steps to evict her. Furthermore, she had already provided supporting documentation from her doctor that the animal provided emotional support that alleviated identifiable symptoms, so the community had no basis to continue seeking additional information, and any further delay amounted to refusal of her accommodation request [Castellano v. Access Premier Realty, Inc., April 2016].
In the July lesson, Fair Housing Coach presents four case studies—summaries of recent fair housing cases involving reasonable accommodation requests by individuals with disabilities. Each case study reviews what the court decided—and why—to illustrate how fair housing rules on reasonable accommodations are applied in the real world. The July lesson, “Case Studies: How the Courts Analyze Reasonable Accommodation Claims,” is available to subscribers here.