According to HUDNo.14-142, “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today it has ordered Castillo Condominium Association, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to pay $20,000 in damages plus a $16,000 civil penalty after finding that the association violated the Fair Housing Act when it refused to allow a resident with disabilities to keep his emotional support animal.”
Support animals and/or service animals have a different status than what might be considered an “ordinary pet”. According to the FHA/HUD official site, “The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when such an accommodation may be necessary to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy his or her home. This includes refusing to grant waivers to ‘no-pet’ policies for persons who use assistance or support animals.”
HUD officials reinterated this in the press relase. “Assistance animals are not pets. Persons with disabilities often depend on them in order carry out life’s daily functions,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “This Order reaffirms HUD’s commitment to taking appropriate action when federal fair housing law has been violated.”
This discrimination case came to the attention of the government when, according to the press release, “a resident of Castillo Condominiums filed a complaint alleging that the condominium’s homeowner association discriminated against him when it denied his request to keep an emotional support animal in his unit, even though he presented documentation from his healthcare provider identifying his disability and his need for the animal. Pets were allowed when the resident initially bought his unit in 1995, but the condominium association had adopted a ‘no-pets’ policy before the resident adopted his emotional support animal. As a result of being denied the right to have a support animal, the man experienced depression and anxiety and he was forced to sell the home he had lived in for almost 20 years.”
The HUD finding wound up altering a previous HUD Administrative Law Judge decision that ordered Castillo Condominium Association to pay only $3,000 in emotional distress damages and a $2,000 civil penalty. The HUD order ruled that, “a higher damages award and civil penalty are necessary in light of the seriousness of the violation and complainant’s injuries.”
We bring stories like these to light here because borrowers can and sometimes do experience illegal practices in violation of Fair Housing Act laws. The only way to stop these practices from continuing to victimize people is to report them to HUD. Consider the instructions found on the FHA/HUD official site:
“Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may contact 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 at 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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