HUD CHARGES SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO, PROPERTY OWNER WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST TENANT WITH DISABILITIES
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging a Santa Fe, New Mexico landlord with housing discrimination for refusing to allow a renter with disabilities to keep her emotional support animal and to have her daughter reside with her. HUD’s charge further alleges that Paula Anderson threatened to evict the woman if she did not get rid of her support animal and have her daughter move out. The woman’s daughter provided her with disability-related assistance.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when a person with a disability requires such accommodations, including refusing to allow a live-in aide and refusing to grant waivers to “no-pet” policies for persons who require assistance or support animals. Additionally, the law makes it unlawful to make housing unavailable to any person because of a disability.
“Housing providers need to understand that support animals are not pets, they provide persons with disabilities the stability needed to perform life’s everyday activities,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to grant reasonable accommodations and HUD is committed to taking action if they fail to meet that obligation.”
The case came to HUD’s attention when the woman, who has a psychological disability, filed a complaint with HUD alleging that Anderson refused to allow her daughter to live with her, even though her daughter assists her with tasks made difficult by her disability. Anderson also allegedly refused to allow the womanto keep an emotional support animal. In addition, Anderson allegedly threatened to evict the woman unless both her daughter and the assistance animal moved out, despite the fact that the woman provided medical documentation verifying her condition and need for the assistance her daughter and support animal provided.
The woman ultimately had to move out in order to live with her daughter and support animal.
HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the woman for the harm caused her by the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages.
In FY 2014, disability was the most common basis of complaints filed with HUD and its partner agencies, being cited as a basis for 4,606 complaints, or 54 percent of the overall total.
Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
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