Hot off the presses! The U.S. Department of Justice just announced a settlement with a Reno, NV apartment complex regarding the management’s treatment of residents with assistance animals. From the DOJ’s press release:
“The department’s complaint had alleged that the owners, employees and management company of Rosewood Park Apartments violated the Fair Housing Act by limiting individuals with certain assistance animals to a particular section of Rosewood Park Apartments; subjecting such individuals to pet fees; requiring assistance animals to be licensed or certified; and barring companion or uncertified service dogs altogether.”
The settlement in this case was $127,500, payable to a family who was denied housing (because of their assistance animal), and to Silver State Fair Housing Council, a nonprofit organization that advocates for equal housing opportunity in Nevada. In addition, the defendants in this case, including the owners and property managers, will pay an additional $25,000 to other parties who were harmed by the discriminatory practices of the apartment community. A civil penalty of $15,000, payable to the U.S. government, was added to the case.
There continues to be a fair amount of confusion among housing providers as to just what constitutes an accommodation for someone with a disability, when it comes to assistance animals. Thanks, in part, to websites like the National Service Animal Registry, offering registration or “certification” of assistance animals, many disabled renters and housing providers inaccurately conclude that some type of “license,” “certification,” or “permit” is needed, in order for an assistance animal to be accepted in rental housing.
Assistance animals do NOT need to be certified, licensed, or trained for a particular task, in order to provide assistance to someone with a disability.
Assistance animals are not pets, and cannot be treated as “pets” by housing providers. No pet deposits, pet rent, or pet fees can be collected for an assistance animal. HUD and DOJ have published a very helpful guide for housing providers that I urge you to review. It discusses various accommodations that might be requested by residents with disabilities, and the housing provider’s obligations and processes for verifying the renter’s need for any requested accommodation.
Property Manager’s Tip: Have a written policy for handling requests for accommodations and modifications by residents with disabilities. Make sure that policy has been reviewed by legal counsel. Then, follow your policy, with each and every request!
Do you have an accommodation/modification policy in place for your rental housing?