HUD: Puerto Rico Association Discriminated Against Resident with Disabilities
HUD recently ordered a condominium association in Puerto Rico to pay $20,000 in damages plus a $16,000 civil penalty for refusing to allow a resident with disabilities to keep his emotional support animal.
Federal fair housing law makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when such an accommodation may be necessary to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy her home. This includes refusing to grant waivers to "no-pet" policies for individuals with disabilities who use assistance or support animals, according to HUD.
The resident filed the HUD complaint, claiming that the community discriminated against him by denying his request for an emotional support animal, despite documentation from his healthcare provider identifying his disability and his need for the animal.
The resident said that pets were allowed when he bought his unit in 1995, but the community adopted a "no-pets" policy before he got the emotional support animal. According to the resident, the denial of his support animal caused him emotional distress and forced him to sell the home where he lived in for almost 20 years.
HUD's order modifies a previous ruling to increase the amount of damages and penalties in light of what HUD found to be the seriousness of the violation and the resident’s injuries.
"Assistance animals are not pets. Persons with disabilities often depend on them in order carry out life's daily functions," Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. "This Order reaffirms HUD's commitment to taking appropriate action when federal fair housing law has been violated."