Fair Housing Act laws ensure all Americans have recourse if they are illegally discriminated in the housing process. The month of April is Fair Housing Month, commemorating the passage of the Fair Housing Act and drawing attention to the ongoing need for federal enforcement of laws designed to prevent discrimination in the housing process.
The 2021 Fair Housing Month observation began with a campaign–the Real People Real Results campaign–which celebrates “…the heroism of those who took a stand against housing discrimination and acknowledges the staff and fair housing partners work to prevent discriminatory harassment”.
This campaign recognizes an important issue. Sometimes the only people with the power to stop future violations of the Fair Housing Act are those who were victims of discrimination. In the last days of April 2021, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced yet another case of Fair Housing Act violations being pursued by HUD.
HUD announced charges being brought against the owner of an Alabama apartment complex for “refusing to rent a unit to a prospective tenant with disabilities who uses an assistance animal”.
Fair Housing Act laws make it a crime to discriminate against potential renters or current tenants with disabilities at any stage of the housing process. That includes landlords “refusing to make reasonable accommodations” when those reasonable accommodations are needed for equal access and use of the home.
The HUD statement on its official site states, “Housing providers may not prohibit people with disabilities from having assistance animals that perform work or tasks, or that provide disability-related emotional support”.
Fair housing laws require housing providers with “no-pets” policies to waive those rules for any prospective renter or current resident who requires an assistance animal because of a disability.
“Refusing to permit individuals who rely on assistance animals to live with their animals not only prevents them from obtaining housing they desperately need, it is also against the law,” said Jeanine Worden, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, who was quoted in the press release.
She adds, “HUD remains committed to ensuring that housing providers recognize and meet their obligation to comply with the Fair Housing Act, including its reasonable accommodation requirements.”
For this incident, Fair Housing Act violations only came to the attention of HUD because the person using an assistance animal filed a complaint with HUD when being denied an apartment because of the apartment owner’s pet policy.
The HUD press release about the incident states clearly that when the victim called to inquire about the rental unit, “the owner allegedly asked if she had a pet, and when the woman stated she had an assistance animal, the owner told her that she did not allow pets or animals and terminated the call.”
This fair housing case will be heard by an administrative law judge. This will happen unless any party to the case chooses to have it heard in federal court, in which case the complaint would be heard there.
Have you been the victim of housing discrimination? File a complaint with the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (Relay).