New Jersey Condo Community Pays $30K to Settle Dog Dispute

A New Jersey condo association recently agreed to pay $30,000 to resolve allegations of discrimination against a resident with disabilities by denying her the right to have a dog as an assistance animal.

The settlement is the result of a 2018 charge that HUD filed against the community, alleging that the community required the resident, who has hearing and sight disabilities, to cage her animal in common areas and use the service entrance when entering and exiting the building with the animal.

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 not allowing people with disabilities (impairments that substantially limit major life activities) to have assistance animals that perform work or tasks, or that provide disability-related emotional support.

Under the settlement, the community agreed to pay $30,000 to the resident and to adopt a reasonable accommodation policy, approved by HUD, that complies with the Fair Housing Act. In addition, Association board members and employees who have contact with residents of the building will attend fair housing training.

“No person with a disability should be denied the reasonable accommodation they need to make a home for themselves,” Anna María Farías, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “Hopefully, today’s action will remind homeowner associations of their obligations under the Fair Housing Act and encourage them to follow the law.”

For guidance on how to avoid legal trouble when dealing with assistance animals, seeDog Days of Summer: How to Handle Requests for Assistance Animals,” available to subscribers here.