Woman Shot in Head While Serving Eviction Notice and Raccoon Attack Leads to a Lawsuit Against Apartment Complex – By the Editors of the Rental Housing Journal

Recently, there have been some court decisions which owners should bear in mind as part of their day-to-day management of their buildings. Below are those cases. 

Woman Shot in Head While Serving Eviction Notice

A 40-year-old woman was shot in the head and critically injured at a Renton, Washington, apartment complex while serving an eviction notice when the home’s occupant began firing at her, according to reports.

The woman was listed in satisfactory condition in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Police arrested the 31-year old tenant, according to police reports on Twitter. Renton police arrested him after he returned to the area near the shooting and drove past officers, Renton police spokesman told the Seattle Times. Officers pulled [the tenant] over “and he gave up without any incident,” the spokesman told the newspaper. Officers do not know why he returned to the area, He was arrested on investigation of felony assault.

The woman told Renton police when she tried to serve the eviction notice, the suspect greeted her at the door of his apartment with a long gun, according to KIRO. He fired three times, striking her once in the head. She sought refuge at an auto detail shop next door.

A worker at the auto repair shop told KIRO, “We saw the lady come out from the apartments,” he told KIRO. “Her face was like full of blood and she asked for help.” He called 911.

Raccoon Attack Leads to Lawsuit Against Portland Apartment Complex

A tenant in a Portland apartment complex has filed suit after she was bitten by a raccoon on the property while she was walking her dogs, according to reports.

The tenant filed suit August 31 against the same apartment complex that was sued [in an earlier article] where a jury had found the same Portland apartment complex failed to make proper repairs to a walkway and awarded $20 million to a man who fell through the walkway.

The tenant said, “I saw something fuzzy under one of the cars and I thought it was a cat. The next thing I know, this thing is launching itself at me and wrapped around my leg.”

The raccoon attacked and bit her leg and the back of her knee and held on until a neighbor came to help and hit the raccoon with a bag, according to reports.

The tenant reported, “My whole leg was bleeding and there was blood in my shoes. It was gross. You could see the mouth print on the back of my leg where it had latched on.”

Her lawsuit asks for $151,000 for medical bills and the companies’ failure to maintain its property. She argues the apartments’ owners knew the complex had a trash problem that could attract vermin like raccoons.

The attorneys that represent the tenant cites a dumpster fire weeks earlier as evidence of the complex’s longstanding trash problem. They told Katu.com, “This place had insects, rodents and raccoons running around because they had trash everywhere. Tenants complained, employees complained up the chain and nothing was done to clean it up.”

There was no comment from the apartment complex owners.

The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association told the Oregonian it’s been more than half a century since a raccoon in Oregon has tested positive for rabies. The tenant said emergency room staff didn’t take any chances and administered immune globulin shots around each of the many scratches and bites on her legs.

 

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[Editor’s Note:  Tenants Win $100,000 in Disability Suit

The case involved two tenants, both with disabilities, and when they requested a reasonable accommodation of adding a relative to the lease to help with in-home support, the management company responded with a notice of termination.

The lawsuit was filed in 2017 by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing against the San Jose property management firm. A Superior Court Judge, in Santa Cruz, dismissed the eviction action and ruled that the landlord’s refusal to allow an aide was discriminatory.

Apartment owners and their management company agreed to pay the two tenants $100,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit. In addition to the $100,000 awarded to the tenants, the property management firm agreed to pay attorney’s fees to the state agency to ensure that their on-site property managers attend a two-hour fair housing training session.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced in August that there were also agreements with three other housing providers in California and Idaho settling other claims of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.  Those amounts ranged from $6,000 to $10,000.

This year alone, the State Department of Fair Employment and Housing settled more than 12 cases alleging housing discrimination involving emotional support animals, parking and a broken elevator.

 

New York Owner Fined $125,000!

In this case, the State Court of Appeals held that the apartment owner refused to convert a window into a doorway and install a ramp for a wheelchair-accessible entrance.  The owner claimed the accommodation, requested by the tenant, amounted to an undue hardship and that it would be structurally infeasible, but the Court ruled that the owner had failed to meet its burden of proving the undue hardship.

Over years of litigation in this case, courts had ruled for and against the owner – the Court of Appeals’ ruling reversed the Appellate Division, which had sided with the owner.  The case went back and forth, but ultimately, the Court of Appeals upheld a large civil penalty against the owner in the amount of $125,000.

This decision is noteworthy as it pointed out that the Court’s analysis effectively neutralized the undue hardship defense available to property owners, “effectively making it impossible for an owner to overcome its burden of demonstrating undue hardship.”  This ruling makes very clear that no accommodation, no matter how costly, disruptive or difficult, will constitute “undue hardship.

Apartment owners presented with reasonable accommodations by disabled tenants should consult with counsel immediately upon receiving such requests.]