Association required residents needing assistance animals to use service elevators, failed to
address harassment and intimidation
WASHINGTON, DC – October 19, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it is charging a Philadelphia condominium association with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to revise its “no pets” policy as a reasonable accommodation for condominium residents with disabilities who required assistance animals. HUD’s charge alleges that The Philadelphian Owners’ Association (POA), which manages the 776-unit Philadelphian condominium complex, requiredthat residents provide burdensome and invasive medical documentation before requests for accommodation would be considered, severely limited access to the complex’s facilities for residents accompanied by assistance animals, and failed to address several instances of harassment of residents requiring assistance animals.
The Fair Housing Act requires property managers, including condominium associations, to make reasonable accommodations to no-pet rules for persons with disabilities who require assistance animals.
“Assistance animals are not pets. They play a vital role in helping people with disabilities conduct everyday activities and fully enjoy their homes,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Condominium associations have a responsibility under the Fair Housing Act to grant reasonable accommodations when they are needed.”
HUD brings the charge on behalf of a resident who alleged that the POA denied her request for permission to have a medically-prescribed assistance dog, threatened her with fines and other sanctions for her failure to comply with the restrictive policy, and did not address her concerns over harassment she had experienced from her neighbors because of her assistance dog.
HUD’s charge is also based on the results of a “Secretary-initiated investigation,” which HUD conducted to protect the interests of other residents who used or sought to use assistance animals, because the policies suggested systemic violations of the Fair Housing Act that went beyond the allegations of the individual who filed a complaint.
According to HUD’s charge, the POA implemented increasingly restrictive and onerous policies over a twenty-year period. In a new 2011 policy, the POA issued detailed “Instructions for Physicians for Documenting Disability Under the Federal Fair Housing Act,” which required exhaustive documentation to support a doctor’s opinion about the necessity of an assistance animal, and stated, “it may be necessary for you to testify under oath in federal court about your opinion.” The 2011 policy banned persons using assistance animals from accessing the main lobby, shuttle bus, social rooms, fitness rooms, mail room, and laundry room, and required them to use the service elevator. HUD’s charge alleges that, as a result of the restrictive policies of The Philadelphian, residents with disabilities have been discouraged from requesting needed assistance animals.
The case that is the subject of HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to aggrieved persons for the damages caused them by the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney’s fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to aggrieved persons.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY).
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.
HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the
need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build
inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.
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