Yet another example of the risk involved in deciding not to make a requested accommodation in a prudent manner in light of the requirements of the Fair Housing Act. This often stems from board members and managers not knowing that "handicap" is a very broadly defined term under the Fair Housing Act. Handicap is defined as follows:
"Handicap" means, with respect to a person, (i) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities; (ii) a record of having such an impairment; or (iii) being regarded as having such an impairment. The term does not include current, illegal use of, or addiction to a controlled substance as defined in Virginia or federal law.
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced a $20,000 consent decree that resolves a lawsuit alleging that a Park City, Utah, condominium association and its management company violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to grant a resident’s request for a reasonable accommodation.
The lawsuit, filed on Nov. 21, 2011, in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, alleges that the Fox Point at Redstone Association, Property Management Systems and on-site property manager Derek Peterson refused to grant a reasonable accommodation so that Thomas Burton, a disabled combat veteran of the first Gulf War, could keep a small dog in the condominium he rented to help him cope with the effects of depression and anxiety disorder. The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants refused to waive their pet fees and insurance requirements and issued multiple fines that eventually led to the non-renewal of Burton’s lease.
Under the consent decree, which was entered by the U.S. District Court in Utah, the defendants will pay $20,000 in monetary relief to Burton. Additionally, the defendants will attend fair housing training; implement a new reasonable accommodation policy that does not charge pet fees to owners of service or assistance animals and does not require them to purchase liability insurance; and comply with notice, monitoring and reporting requirements.
“In this case, a combat veteran was denied an assistance animal for his disability,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We are pleased that this settlement will compensate Mr. Burton and protect the housing rights of others who need this accommodation.”
“Enforcing the fair housing rights of persons with disabilities in Utah, including disabled veterans, is a priority of this office. We will continue to work to ensure that disabled veterans are not denied accommodations they need to live independently,” said David B. Barlow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah.
“No veteran should be denied the right to have a support animal when they return home with mobility impairments or other conditions,” said John Trasviña, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and the Department of Justice are committed to enforcing the Fair Housing Act and ensuring that housing providers grant people with disabilities reasonable accommodations.”
The lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed by Burton with HUD. After an investigation of the complaint, HUD issued a charge of discrimination, and the Fox Point at Redstone Association elected to have the case heard in federal court.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.