Utah Communities Pay $45K to Settle Claims Related to Assistance Animals

The owners and managers of four multifamily apartment complexes in Utah recently agreed to pay $45,000 to settle a fair housing case alleging discrimination against residents with disabilities who wanted to live with their assistance animals.

The complaint alleged that the communities required residents with disabilities who sought to live with an assistance animal to have a healthcare provider complete a “prescription form,” which suggested that the healthcare provider may be held responsible for any property damage or physical injury caused by the animal. Allegedly, the communities did not require residents without disabilities to have a third-party assume liability for their pets.

Under the settlement, the communities agreed to pay $20,000 to a former tenant and her 7-year-old son with autism who were allegedly denied permission to keep the child’s assistance animal after the child’s doctor refused to assume liability for any possible damages caused by the animal. The communities also agreed to pay $25,000 to establish a settlement fund to compensate any additional individuals allegedly harmed by their conduct.

“The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make accommodations for individuals with disabilities who require assistance animals in their homes,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “The Justice Department remains deeply committed to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and holding accountable housing providers who utilize discriminatory policies.”