NY Owner and Manager Charged with Barring Child’s Assistance Animal

HUD recently charged a New York property owner and manager with housing discrimination for allegedly refusing to allow a mother to have an assistance animal for her son and retaliating against the family for exercising their fair housing rights.

Federal fair housing law 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. 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. The law also prohibits housing providers from retaliating against people who exercise their fair housing rights, such as filing a complaint with HUD.

The mother filed the HUD complaint, claiming that the owners and manager wouldn’t allow her child, who had mental disabilities, to have an assistance animal. HUD’s charge alleges that the owner and manager also required the family to provide documentation stating that their dog was an adult and under 20 pounds, even though the county human rights agency informed him that fair housing law doesn’t limit the size of a service animal. After the woman filed her complaint with HUD, the owner allegedly tried to evict the family, so they moved out of their home.

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.

“Individuals with disabilities have a right to the accommodations they need, including the use of assistance animals,” Anna Maria Farías, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “Today’s action reaffirms HUD’s commitment to taking appropriate action when housing providers fail to meet their obligations under the Fair Housing Act.”

In the August 2019 lesson, the Coach shepherds in the dog days of summer with a lesson on disability-related requests for assistance animals focusing on the most common type—dogs. The law generally allows communities to set their own pet policies, but housing providers must grant reasonable accommodation requests to allow individuals with disabilities to keep assistance animals when necessary to allow them full use and enjoyment of their homes.

For more information, see the August 2019 issue of Fair Housing Coach, “Dog Days of Summer: How to Handle Requests for Assistance Animals,” available to subscribers here.