Mass. Landlord Accused of Discriminating Against Residents with Assistance Animals

HUD recently charged the owner and managers of a Massachusetts community with discriminating against persons with disabilities who require the use of assistance animals.

Federal fair housing law prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing to persons with disabilities or from refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices. This includes waiving no-pet policies for assistance or service animals.

The charge stems from a HUD complaint filed by a fair housing organization alleging that the community posted Craigslist ads which stated, "One cat considered, no dogs please," and "no service animals."

After spotting the ad, the organization said that two testers posing as persons with disabilities contacted the community and asked if they could keep a dog to help with their disabilities. Allegedly, one of the testers was told by phone to send an email to arrange a visit to the property, but she received no reply to her email. The other tester allegedly received a reply stating, "I am highly allergic to dogs and therefore I cannot accept dogs at my properties. I think I have that in my ad." In contrast, testers who didn’t mention that they used assistance animals were offered opportunities to view units, told when units would become available, and given rental applications, according to the complaint.

HUD's charge will be heard by a U.S. administrative law judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court.

"A person who requires the use of an assistance animal should not be unlawfully denied their right to have that reasonable accommodation," Anna María Farías, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. "Whenever the rights of persons with disabilities are violated, HUD will continue to take action to protect those rights."