Earlier this month, HUD announced it was filing discrimination charges against a Utah homeowners association, its management company, and even a group of owners based on a violation of the Fair Housing Amendments Act by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a disabled tenant.

In this case, a tenant, a Gulf War veteran, wanted to keep an emotional support dog based on a mental disability.  The association demanded the tenant pay a registration fee of $150, provide proof of liability insurance coverage, and sign a medical release giving the association authority to review his private medical records.

Although the tenant provided the association with medical verification of the disability and proof of liability insurance, the association would not allow the emotional assistance dog to remain in the unit unless the tenant also paid the $150 fee and signed the medical release.  Additionally, the association imposed fines against the owners of the unit where the tenant resided, which resulted in the owners refusing to renew the tenant’s lease until he paid all the fines and the $150 fee.  As a result the tenant and his wife moved out of the unit.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act (“FHAA”) applies to housing projects (including condominiums and homeowner associations) and does require reasonable accommodations or modifications to be provided for disabled residents.  A reasonable accommodation requires the waiving or modifying a particular rule, policy, procedure or practice in order for a handicapped or disabled person to have equal access to and enjoyment of their housing.  In this case, HUD alleges the association and management company violated the FHAA by requiring a disabled resident to pay fees associated with the assistance animal, obtain liability insurance, and provide access to his confidential medical records.  HUD also alleges the owners of the unit violated FHAA by demanding that the tenant pay all associated fines and fees. A hearing has not yet been held on this matter.  Do you think it’s fair that the management company and unit owners were named in this charge?  Any predictions as to the outcome of this case?

If you’re interested in learning more about the FHAA and what associations can do to minimize their exposure to liability when it comes to assistance animals, make sure to attend our class on this very issue next April!

Elina B. Gilbert
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