U.S. Attorney Sues Landlord For Refusing To Allow Disabled Tenant To Keep An Assistance Animal
Lawsuit Follows Determination by Department of Housing and Urban Development that Landlord Engaged in Discrimination on the Basis of Disability
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has filed a lawsuit against 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS, a partnership, for violating the Fair Housing Act. The Government alleges that 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS discriminated against a disabled tenant, Gregory Reich, by failing to permit a reasonable accommodation of the tenant’s psychiatric disability.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “We have repeatedly filed lawsuits of this sort, and will continue to do so, until housing providers understand that the Fair Housing Act plainly allows tenants with disabilities to keep assistance animals.”
As alleged in the Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court:
Reich is a statutory lessee of an apartment in a building located at 111 East 88th Street, New York, New York. Reich suffers from depression and a personality disorder, and has long suffered from chronic kidney disease. In March 2015, Reich was diagnosed with end stage renal disease, which led to a significant deterioration of his mental health and a reduced capacity to care for himself. On June 18, 2015, Reich requested a reasonable accommodation to keep an emotional support dog based on updated medical information related to his recent diagnosis of end stage renal disease. Reich attached letters from his physician and his therapist. In response, 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS requested that Reich provide copies of all of the therapist’s notes from his sessions with Reich from May 2014 through present, and copies of Reich’s medical records and medical history. 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS also reserved the right to have Reich examined by a physician it had selected, and to require Reich, his physician, and his therapist to appear to answer questions under oath relating to Reich’s disability and accommodation request.
Believing that 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS’ requests for medical information were so burdensome as to constitute a denial of the reasonable accommodation request, Reich filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”). Upon investigation, HUD determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that the Fair Housing Act had been violated. Thereafter, 111 EAST 88TH PARTNERS elected pursuant to the Fair Housing Act to have HUD’s determination resolved in federal court.
In these circumstances, the Fair Housing Act authorizes the Department of Justice to commence an action in United States District Court on behalf of Reich. The Complaint seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief for Reich.
Mr. Bharara thanked HUD for its efforts in the investigation.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Sharanya Mohan is in charge of the case.