HUD Cracks Down on Discrimination Against Residents with Disabilities
HUD recently announced settlements with two communities—and charges against two others—for alleged discrimination against residents with disabilities. The announcement follows the release of HUD’s latest fair housing report, which shows that more than half of the discrimination complaints filed with HUD in 2013 were based on disability.
“We continue to see more cases of discrimination against persons with disabilities than any other type,” Gustavo Velasquez, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “It is unacceptable that individuals with disabilities have to fight for the opportunity to live where they want, or to have reasonable accommodations extended to them so they can enjoy their dwelling. The cases we’re announcing today reflect our ongoing commitment to leveling the playing field for all Americans when it comes to housing.”
Alabama: A homeowners association agreed to pay $42,000 to settle allegations that it unreasonably delayed or denied a couple’s request to approve disability-related modifications needed for their home because the husband uses a wheelchair.
Michigan: The operators of five “independent living” properties agreed to a $35,000 settlement to resolve allegations that it fired an employee because she raised fair housing concerns about the company’s policy of monitoring the health of applicants and residents. The agreement is the first HUD enforcement action involving independent living properties in Michigan. Allegedly, fair housing testers found practices that included the regular and uniform collection of medical data of applicants and current residents and “gate-keeping” practices in which residents who had to leave their units for hospital stays were not allowed to return or remain in their units once they were deemed not “independent” enough. As part of the settlement, the communities agreed to no longer require residents returning from hospital stays to undergo a “gatekeeping review” or provide medical information.
California: HUD charged the owners of a San Francisco community with discrimination for initially refusing to allow a resident with disabilities to keep an emotional support animal. Even after receiving medical documentation attesting to her need for the animal, the owners allegedly refused to grant her reasonable accommodation request so she sent the animal to live with a friend. Though the owners ultimately granted the accommodation, the resident allegedly suffered psychological distress from living without the support animal for five months.
New Hampshire: HUD charged a homeowners association and related parties with violating fair housing law by denying the request of a resident with disabilities to use the visitor parking space in front of his unit as a reasonable accommodation. Allegedly, the resident had difficulty climbing stairs and his designated space could only be accessed via a staircase with nine steps.
The charges will be heard by an administrative judge unless either party elects to take the cases to federal court.