HUD: Landlord’s No-Pet Policy Violates the Fair Housing Act

key in lock of an open door

by Andy Jones
December 26, 2016

Prompted by a complaint from the Disability Law Center, the federal government charged the owner of a Salt Lake City-based apartment complex on December 13 with violating the Fair Housing Act by failing to reasonably accommodate the owner of an emotional support animal.

On April 4, 2015, a woman with disabilities and her husband applied for an apartment at the Pine Cove Apartment. The woman presented paperwork from her doctor, proscribing her dog as an emotional support animal.

The building manager of the complex, owned by BJJ Enterprises LLC, denied the request, on the basis that “some tenants are allergic and that other longtime residents simply did not want animals at the property,” as described in the HUD’s complaint.

The woman contacted the Disability Law Center, which conducted three separate phone tests at the apartment complex, each of which resulted in similar denials. On January 27, 2015, the Disability Law Center filed a complaint with the HUD.

With the filing of HUD's six-page complaint [PDF], known as a Charge, the case will now be heard by an administrative law judge.

“For nearly three decades, people with disabilities have had a right to request the reasonable accommodations they need to fully enjoy their homes, but that right is still being denied,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, in a news release. “HUD will continue to take actions that ensure that property owners and managers understand their rights and responsibilities under the law and take steps to comply with those obligations.”

The HUD complaint requests monetary damages, as well as to compel BJJ Enterprises LLC to change its lease provisions and procedures concerning pets and reasonable accommodation requests, among other changes.

The Fair Housing Act mandates that landlords accommodate both trained service animals and emotional support animals in their apartment complexes, provided that doing so doesn’t represent an undue burden or a fundamental alteration of their services.

The Department of Justice has interpreted the ADA to only require places of public accommodation to accommodate service, not emotional support, animals. HUD, however, has never interpreted the Fair Housing Act to contain such a distinction.

According to the news release, HUD considered more than 4,500 disability related complaints last year, representing nearly 55 percent of all Fair Housing Act complaints.

Disability Rights Washington and the Disability Law Center are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and Utah, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.