Philly HOA Accused of Discrimination Based on Its Animal Policy

The Justice Department is suing a Philadelphia condo association for allegedly violating fair housing law by discriminating against persons with disabilities who need assistance animals, including emotional support and service animals.

The lawsuit arose when a condo owner filed a HUD complaint, claiming that the community discriminated against persons with disabilities needing service animals and emotional support animals by denying their requests for reasonable accommodations to its “no pets” policy. The complaint also alleged that the community engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination by maintaining policies that, among other things, excluded all assistance animals--including service animals--from its common areas, imposed a blanket ban on visitors’ assistance animals that have not been first approved by the HOA to come onto the property, and required that residents granted reasonable accommodations for assistance animals obtain a $1 million insurance policy naming the HOA as an additional insured.

“People with disabilities who need assistance animals to live their lives should not have to surmount unreasonable hurdles to keep those animals in their homes,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Discriminating against people with disabilities is unacceptable and illegal, and the Justice Department will continue vigorously to enforce the Fair Housing Act to combat this type of discrimination and to obtain relief for its victims.”

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate victims, civil penalties, and a court order barring future discrimination. The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct, which must be proven in federal court.