Minnesota Landlord Charged with Discriminating Against Veteran with Assistance Dog

HUD recently charged the owner and manager of a Minnesota apartment complex with discrimination for refusing to allow an Army veteran, who served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, to keep an emotional support animal.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing to people with disabilities, or from refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices for people with disabilities. Allowing people with disabilities to have assistance animals that perform work or tasks, or that provide disability-related emotional support, is considered a reasonable accommodation under fair housing law.

The case came to HUD's attention when the veteran filed a discrimination complaint alleging that the owner and manager of his community denied his request to keep an assistance animal, despite the veteran explaining in detail his right to have the animal.

In a letter responding to the veteran's request, the owner allegedly suggested that he get a cat instead, citing the property's policy of allowing cats but not allowing assistance animals weighing more than 12 pounds. The owner also allegedly stated that, even for an animal under 12 pounds, the veteran would need to provide proof that the animal was licensed.

The veteran said he provided a copy of his license for the animal, a certificate of training, and additional information about the animal, but the owner still refused his request, stating the dog had to be removed from the property. In a subsequent letter, the manager allegedly notified the veteran that he was in violation of his lease by having the dog and that he had two weeks to vacate the unit. The eviction action was later withdrawn, but the veteran said that he was still not allowed to keep the dog, so he moved out at the end of his lease.

HUD's charge will be heard by a U.S. Administrative Law Judge unless any party elects for the case to be heard in federal court.

"Assistance animals play a vital role in helping our veterans cope with service-related disabilities," Anna Maria Farías, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. "Housing providers have an obligation to permit these animals, and HUD ensures that they meet this obligation."