A rental property owner and the property manager have been charged with discrimination for telling a prospective tenant she would have to pay hundreds of dollars in pet fees for her assistance animal, according to a release from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The charge of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act came due to the manager refusing to grant the prospective tenant with a mental health disability a reasonable accommodation to waive the required pet deposit for her assistance animal, according to the release.
The release says HUD charged Dahms Investments LLC, the owner of duplex apartments in Hamilton, Missouri, and their property manager, with the Fair Housing Act violation.
After being told of the pet fees, the prospective tenant told the property manager they could not require a deposit for an assistance animal “and offered to provide a letter from her physician recommending the assistance animal,” according to the complaint.
The manager remained firm on the pet-deposit fee, telling the prospective tenant that “a physician’s letter did not matter,” the complaint says. The charge further alleges that the property manager told the woman that rules related to assistance animals only applied to “individuals who are blind and/or deaf.”
Housing providers do not determine who needs an assistance animal
“It’s not a housing provider’s role to determine who does or does not need an assistance animal,” said Jeanine Worden, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, in the release.. She added the HUD discrimination “action demonstrates HUD’s commitment to ensuring that the owners and managers of rental properties comply with the nation’s housing laws.”
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing to people with disabilities, or from refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when necessary to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling. Prohibitions include not allowing people with disabilities to have assistance animals that perform work or tasks, or that provide disability-related emotional support.
According to the HUD discrimination complaint, the manager “responded that complainant (prospective tenant) did not look like she had a disability and asked what the disability was? The prospective tenant told the manager that by law they “could not ask that question” and the manager replied then “I’m sorry then we can’t help you.”
The prospective tenant provided a letter from a psychiatrist dated September 21, 2016 that stated caring for an animal “was a therapeutic experience” for her and “advised that it can be beneficial to have a pet.”
During the fair-housing investigation, the prospective tenant provided an updated letter from the psychiatrist dated October 9, 2019, which reads, “This letter is to recommend allowing to have her pet ‘dog’ for her emotional support. She is currently under my care for severe anxiety.”
The prospective tenant “stated that during the period she sought housing, she felt overwhelmed because she could not find quality housing in Hamilton where she was permitted to have her assistance animal, and her work commute and commute to visit her mother were longer… and suffered from headaches and a loss of appetite as a result of her inability to find housing.”