The owner of several Reno, Nevada apartment complexes has agreed to pay $20,000 to settle allegations of pet discrimination and Fair Housing Act violations involving requiring pet deposits from prospective tenants who require assistance animals, according to a release.The Silver State Fair Housing Council filed four complaints against the owner and manager of Silver Lake Apartments, Vale Townhomes, Oak Manor Apartments and Angel Street Apartments with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These complaints allege ERGS, Inc. and Silver Lake Apartments, LLC discriminated against prospective tenants who required assistance animals by requiring applicants who required support animals to pay a pet deposit fee.
Under the conciliation agreement, ERGS, Inc. will pay Silver State Fair Housing Council $20,500. ERGS, Inc., and Silver Lake Apartments, LLC, will also adopt written policies that are consistent with the Fair Housing Act and provide fair housing training for all employees who interact with tenants or applicants. Kate Zook, executive director of the Silver State Fair Housing Council, told Rental Housing Journal that a woman with an emotional support animal had tried to apply at the apartments and was told they do not accept pets. The Silver State Fair Housing Council did follow-up testing on emotional support animals and rentals at the apartment complexes. She said they found, “People with emotional support animals were told they do not qualify as a service animal.”
The organization then filed the complaint against the owner and managers of the apartment complexes.
“I hate filing cases,” Zook said. But she said unfortunately sometimes it takes publicity about these issues to get people’s attention. “It is too bad. Somebody has been hurt in this.”
Both Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act can apply in these situations.
In addition to the Fair Housing Act’s protections, HUD provided guidance in April 2013 reaffirming that housing providers must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities who require assistance animals.
Pet Discrimination and Disability
Disability is the most common basis of fair housing complaint filed with HUD and its partner agencies. Last year alone, HUD and its partners considered over 4,900 disability-related complaints, or more than 58 percent of all fair housing complaints that were filed.
HUD writes in the notice that, “An assistant animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the FHA nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified.”
Housing providers are to evaluate a request for a reasonable accommodation to possess an assistance animal in a dwelling using the general principles applicable to all reasonable accommodation requests. After receiving such a request, the housing provider must consider the following:
- Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or
mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
- Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words,
does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability,
- or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms of a person’s existing disability?
If the answer to those two questions is “yes,” then the housing provider is to modify or provide an exception to a “no pets” policy.
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