Nevada Community to Pay $167,500 in Discrimination Settlement

The Justice Department recently announced court approval of a fair housing settlement in which the owners and operators of a 902-unit community in Reno, Nev., will pay $167,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging discrimination against persons with disabilities who use assistance animals.

The case began when a family who had sought housing at the community contacted a fair housing organization after they were allegedly turned away because a household member used an assistance animal. After the organization conducted fair housing testing, the family and the organization filed discrimination complaints with HUD. The matter was ultimately referred to the Justice Department.

The complaint alleged that the community’s owners, employees, and management company violated the fair housing law by limiting individuals with certain assistance animals to a particular section of the community; subjecting such individuals to pet fees; requiring assistance animals to be licensed or certified; and barring companion or uncertified service dogs altogether.

Under the settlement, the community agreed to pay a total of $127,500 to the family and the fair housing organization; $25,000 to compensate others allegedly harmed by the policies; and $15,000 to the government in civil penalties. In addition, the community agreed to adopt and maintain a new policy regarding assistance animals, provide fair housing training to employees, and comply with record-keeping and monitoring requirements for the terms of the agreement.

“The Fair Housing Act ensures that persons with disabilities searching for a home are protected from discrimination,” Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously protect the civil rights of persons with disabilities in Nevada and across the country.”

“Assistance animals play a vital role in helping people with disabilities conduct everyday activities and fully enjoy their homes,” added Bryan Greene, HUD's Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and DOJ will continue to enforce the Fair Housing Act's protections and ensure that housing providers do not illegally limit assistance animals.”

Source: U.S. Department of Justice