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In The News…Fair Housing & Service Animals

Written by Erik Whitton, Spectrum Enterprises

Yesterday 2 articles found their way to my inbox worth sharing as a careful reminder of management policies and service animals.

http://www.cdapress.com/news/local_news/article_da870541-2784-5eb9-b8df-2729a96713d3.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/feds-sue-i-co-op-threatening-evict-couple-woman-comfort-dog-article-1.1022404?localLinksEnabled=false

In the first article, a federal jury awarded $21,000 in damages after an Idaho apartment community informed prospective residents that damage deposits were required for service animals. This was deemed a Fair Housing violation as discrimination against handicap applicants. Of note, the property did not actually charge anyone a damage deposit yet still lost the case and will be forced to pay $21,000.

In the 2nd article, a co-op community in New York threatened to evict an elderly couple stating the woman’s therapy animal violated the ‘no pet’ policy at the property. The tenant in question suffered from diabetes, mental illness, and loss of vision and hearing. Under pressure from the property owner, the couple gave up the dog while she was dying. After her death the husband filed a fair housing compliant which is now a federal case. It will be interesting to follow this case as it develops. If I here anything I will post an update.

Both cases reveal property staff unfamiliar with the distinction between a ‘pet’ and a service animal. We would urge anyone reading this to check your advertising, selection criteria, lease documents, and property rules for language about pet policies and make sure all staff understands a service animal is not a ‘pet.’

These are important reminders that the judicial system does not take lightly fair housing concerns. If a compliant is valid the prosecution will be tough and the penalties severe. Al employees must be trained in Fair Housing law – this includes anyone answering phones or working on the maintenance crew all the way up to the owner. Spectrum recently announced our 2012 training schedule which includes 4 Fair Housing seminars along with our Symposium which always addresses Fair Housing and usually includes a presentation from a HUD employee who prosecutes these cases. In addition, all of our c3p Tax Credit Compliance seminars spend time discussing Fair Housing law. Any client of Spectrum Enterprises can register for the courses at a discounted rate (please mention to this to our staff when signing up). Here is a link to the 2012 schedule:

http://www.spectrumseminars.com/register/

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