June 25, 2019
Housing discrimination can affect potential borrowers and renters at any stage in the house-hunting or home seeking process. Discrimination in rental housing can negatively affect the attempt to find and buy a home in cases where the victim needs to rent a unit while still looking for a house to purchase with a mortgage loan. Housing discrimination of any kind whether in renting or buying is prohibited by federal law.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced charges against Minneapolis landlords in a Fair Housing Act case involving a rental unit denied to tenants over reasonable accommodation issues.
The HUD official site published a press release alleging that the owners “refused to allow a single mother to live with an assistance animal, a cat, for her oldest daughter, who has mental disabilities, and for terminating her lease agreement in response to the mother’s reasonable-accommodation request.”
Assistance animals cannot be a “deal-breaker” for renting or purchasing property; it is illegal to deny or restrict housing to people with disabilities “or from refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices for people with disabilities. This includes not allowing people with disabilities (impairments that substantially limit major life activities) to have assistance animals that perform work or tasks, or that provide disability-related emotional support” according to the press release.
In addition to these issues, Fair Housing Act law makes it illegal for housing providers to retaliate against anyone exercising Fair Housing Act rights to include filing a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“For individuals with mental disabilities, assistance animals provide the support they need to perform life’s daily tasks,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, who was quoted in the press release.
She adds, “Today’s action demonstrates HUD’s ongoing commitment to taking appropriate action when housing providers fail to meet their obligations to comply with the Fair Housing Act.”
This case was brought to HUD’s attention when the renter complained about the reasonable accommodation issue. According to HUD, “the owners refused to allow the assistance animal in the home” in spite of the renters providing documentation from a therapist explaining the need for the assistance animal.
According to HUD, “Concurrently with the denial of the reasonable-accommodation request, the owners terminated the lease agreement before the family could even move in.”
This case will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge unless anyone involved in the case requests a hearing in a federal court.
If you believe you have experienced discrimination at any stage in the housing process, contact the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints can also be directed to hud.gov/fair housing.