A brand new decision from Northern California, Hintz v. Chase, 17-CV-02198-JCS, 2017 WL 3421979 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 9, 2017) reminds both property owners and sales or leasing agents that no one can escape responsibility for making the right decision in cases under the Fair Housing Act. This is an especially important reminder for those in the market for single family residences unacquainted with the subtleties of disability discrimination and the notion of reasonable accommodation and modification. More
A decision from the Western District of Texas should remind landlords that the world of FHA litigation is unforgiving and expensive, so the best thing is to get it right the first time. Reading it has prompted us to re-offer our webinar on dealing with accommodation requests involving animals later this month and next. Details appear at the end of this blog.
Chavez v Aber, 122 F.Supp.3d 581 (W.D. Tex. 2015) involved a child with a mixed breed pit-bull as an emotional support animal. There was no question about the child’s psychiatric disability or the fact that the child’s doctor recommended the dog for therapeutic purposes, so the only legal question was whether to dog had to be accommodated despite a “no pets” policy and the fact that pit-bulls are regarded as a dangerous breed. That did not mean the case was simple. As the court pointed out more than once, cases involving accommodation depend very much on the facts. More
On May 17 a jury in the District of Montana found that a landlord violated the Fair Housing Act by requiring a pet deposit from a disabled tenant and awarded damages of almost $40,000. (U.S. v. Katz et al, Case No. 14-68). Why is this good news for landlords? Because there was a jury trial, meaning the landlord had a chance to win.
HUD and the DOJ have long taken the position that any requirement of a pet deposit for a service dog or assistance animal* violates the reasonable accommodation provisions of the FHA. (Notice dated April 23, 2013, FHEO-2013-01). The position is illogical on its face because HUD and DOJ recognize that a disabled tenant remains responsible for any damage caused by a service or assistance animal. If the tenant remains responsible for the damage, why not require a damage deposit? HUD does not require that landlords waive a rent or general damage deposit for disabled tenants, and a pet deposit is no different. Nonetheless, HUD has spoken and requests for accommodation in the form of pet deposit waivers have skyrocketed since 2013. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, FHA, FHA Emotional Support Animals, FHA Reasonable Accommodation, Landlord-tenant Tags: City Vision, CityVision, dialing for dollars, Fair Housing Advocates, Gary Lacefield, Patrick Coleman
In the last several weeks we’ve gotten calls from attorneys and industry groups in several states about Patrick Coleman’s company, “Fair Housing Advocates,” filing significant numbers of HUD multiple complaints in Louisiana, Indiana and elsewhere. There is no easy way to know the full geographic extent of Fair Housing Advocates’ activities because the dialing for dollars business requires nothing but a phone, a list of apartment complexes, and a willingness to prevaricate about one’s motives and intent. City Vision Services, a related business, has also re-appeared with a complaint filed in Nebraska. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, FHA, FHA Policies, Landlord-tenant Tags: Facebook discrimination, FHA Advertising, FHA Discrimination, Google discrimination, Pro Publica, Targeted Advertising
A recent study from ProPublica, “Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race” describes how Facebook’s tools for audience targeting allow housing advertisers to exclude specific racial and ethnic groups from seeing their ads. Facebook justifies this practice with the argument that: “Everyone benefits from access to content that’s more relevant to them” and points out that targeted advertising is commonplace. This is certainly true – billboards in Spanish are generally found in communities with large Spanish speaking populations, and advertisements for hair care products and cosmetics aimed at black consumers are never found in mostly white suburbs. The positive side of targeted advertising has, however, an ugly negative equivalent. Everyone who is not targeted is excluded, and that exclusion may be illegal. Who’s not standing on the bulls-eye in this picture? A family, someone with a disability, perhaps a Muslim. Does that mean they are unwelcome? Perhaps not, but it sure looks likes it. More