The October 17, 2017 decision by Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas in Houston v. DTN Operating Company et al., 2017 WL 4653246 (E.D.Tex 2017) is good news for landlords confronted by bogus internet diagnoses of disability. There is a vexing lack of authority concerning just what constitutes sufficient evidence of a disability to require a landlord to allow an emotional support animal, and Judge Mazzant’s opinion makes it clear that the kind of letter typically purchased on the internet (or supplied by local physicians who don’t understand the law) won’t do. More
FHA Emotional Support Animals
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, FHA Emotional Support Animals, FHA indemnity contribution, FHA Reasonable Accommodation, Landlord-tenant Tags: disability discrimination, Fair Housing Act, reasonable accommodation, Reasonable modification, service dog, Sothby's
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
Anyone reading the news, or at least the disability news, understands that so called emotional support animals for persons with mental disabilities are a big deal. The number of HUD complaints based on refusals to allow ESA’s is growing, and there is a booming industry filing complaints, selling fake service dog paraphernalia, and selling bogus diagnosis of disability. With all this going on, it might be reasonable to ask whether there is any evidence at all that ESA’s at home or on an airplane are really of any value at all to a person who is disabled. Despite the noise from animal advocates, the science doesn’t support their claims. 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