Brooklyn Park Landlord And Property Management Company Agree To Pay Victim For Violating The Fair Housing Act
United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger today announced that the federal government and a housing discrimination victim have entered into an agreement with a Brooklyn Park landlord and a property management company to settle allegations that they violated the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) by refusing to allow the victim to keep her support animal at Huntington Place Apartments because the support animal was a pit bull. The alleged violations included: requiring the victim to purchase liability insurance for her support animal; requiring the victim to make her support animal wear a vest identifying it as a support animal; demanding excessive medical information; and refusing to renew the victim’s lease based on the breed of her support animal.
Under the terms of the agreement, filed in the form of a consent decree on Friday, January 22, 2016, the defendants, Brooklyn Park 73rd Leased Housing Associates, LLC; Dominium Management Services, LLC; Susan Meyer; and Gina Estrem will pay $35,000 to the housing discrimination victim. The defendants, who are the landlord, management firm, and two employees, were sued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on May 18, 2015.
Pursuant to the consent decree, the defendants will be enjoined from: refusing to rent or discriminating in the terms, conditions and privileges of a dwelling of because of a person’s disability; refusing to make reasonable accommodations that may be necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling; and coercing, intimidating or interfering with a person’s use and enjoyment of a dwelling on account of having exercised a right granted by the FHA. In addition, they will adopt a reasonable accommodation policy for Huntington Place Apartments, which specifies that assistance animals are not considered “pets” under Huntington Place Apartment’s policies, and will display fair housing materials and include the words “Equal Housing Opportunity Provider” in advertising materials. Defendants and certain employees and agents will also attend an educational training program regarding the FHA and its disability discrimination provisions.
In its complaint, the federal government alleged that the defendants learned in February 2013 that a tenant had a pit bull in her apartment at Huntington Place Apartments, which included pit bulls in a prohibited breed policy. The victim requested the reasonable accommodation of being allowed to keep her dog, named “King,” as a “support animal” pursuant to the FHA. The defendants required additional medical information and maintained that the victim should get rid of King and replace him with a dog of a different breed. After receiving two letters from a psychologist and one from a social worker that verified the victim’s need to retain King, the defendants threatened eviction. The defendants’ attorney ultimately interviewed the victim’s psychologist in a phone call in which the psychologist reiterated the importance of King and the victim’s relationship with that specific dog to her well-being and recovery.
The defendants subsequently allowed the victim to keep King, but required her to purchase insurance for King, make him wear a vest identifying him as an emotional support animal, keep King leashed at all times and execute an indemnity agreement. The victim complied with the defendants’ requirements, but the defendants still demanded that she leave at the end of her initial lease term only because of the breed of her support animal.
The victim filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), alleging housing discrimination based on disability. HUD investigated the complaint and, on April 14, 2015, issued a charge of discrimination against the defendants, alleging they had engaged in discriminatory housing practices based on disability in violation of the FHA. This case arose from that charge.
“The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, including allowing support animals that would be prohibited if they were simply pets. When tenants exercise the right to keep support animals, the FHA prohibits landlords from retaliating or discriminating against them,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Baune, who represented the United States in the matter.
The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing of the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. Civil Rights enforcement is a priority of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), and individuals who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination should call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7743), email DOJ at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.
The underlying case is United States of America, et al v. Brooklyn Park 73rd Leased Housing Associates, LLC, et al, Civil No. 15-2489 (PJS/SER). Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Baune represented the United States in this court action. The victim intervened and was represented by Mawerdi Hamid and Lael Robertson of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.
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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600