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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 9, 2022

U.S. Attorney's Office Settles Housing Discrimination Lawsuit Against Dansville Rental Property Owners

CONTACT: Barbara Burns   
PHONE:       (716) 843-5817 
FAX #:          (716) 551-3051  

ROCHESTER, N.Y.- U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced today that a settlement agreement has been reached with the current and former owners of Midtown Motel, LLC, a residential rental property in Dansville, NY, who were named as defendants in a Fair Housing Act complaint. The Government alleged that the owners of Midtown Motel discriminated against Cheryl Martinez based on her disability by refusing to rent to Martinez because of her assistance animal. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Smith, who is handling the case, stated that Ms. Martinez’s emotional support dog, an American Staffordshire Terrier, was prescribed by her primary care physician as part of a therapeutic plan to treat her psychiatric conditions. In November 2016, Ms. Martinez was homeless and seeking affordable housing. She agreed to rent a unit at the Midtown Motel, but, upon learning of her emotional support animal, the property manager refused to rent to her and asked that she vacate the unit.

“Individuals with disabilities should not face discrimination in housing,” stated U.S. Attorney Ross. “The settlement of this lawsuit is an opportunity to educate tenants and landlords alike that denying someone housing because of a disability is illegal under the Fair Housing Act.”

The Consent Decree, agreed to by the Government and Midtown Motel past and present owners, and signed by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford, requires the current owner of Midtown Motel to maintain non-discriminatory policies, provide Fair Housing Act training to employees, and submit to compliance and reporting requirements for two years. In addition, the former owners of Midtown Motel paid Ms. Martinez $30,000 in damages.  

The Complaint was the result of an investigation by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Ms. Martinez was represented by Lisa Pantuso, Esq. and Laurie Lambrix, Esq. of Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. 

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status (having one or more children under 18), national origin and disability. Individuals who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination should contact the Department of Justice toll-free at 1-833-591-0291, by email at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or submit a report online at www.civilrights.justice.gov. Such individuals may also contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint online. 

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Topic(s): 
Disability Rights
Updated February 9, 2022