When used in the context of a claim under the Fair Housing Act or Americans with Disabilities Act the words “disability” and “handicap” have specific legal meanings. Our last blog looked at a case, Houston v. DTN Operating,* discussing what a plaintiff must plead concerning her disability in a reasonable accommodation case. Today we’re looking another recent case, Haws v. Norman, 2017 WL 4221064 (D. Utah Sept. 20, 2017) that considers the next step – a motion for summary judgment by the plaintiff. There is plenty of interest in the opinion on related subjects**, but the Court’s ruling on proof of disability and necessity of accommodation is especially important to landlords who suspect a disability claim is not justified. More
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, FHA, FHA Emotional Support Animals Tags: assistance animals, Emotional Support Animals, Fair Housing Act, FHA, reasonable accommodation, service animals
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
In a March 27, 2017 ruling Judge Richard Leon of the D.C. Circuit found a safe harbor in the Fair Housing Act that I haven’t seen referred to in any earlier published opinion. See, U.S. v. Mid-America Apt. Communities, Inc., 2017 WL 1154944 (D.D.C. Mar. 27, 2017). In the defense of FHA design / build cases the emphasis is usually on the statutory safe harbor in 42 U.S.C. §3604(f)(4), the ANSI A117.1 standard, or in one of the similar safe harbors recognized by HUD in 24 CFR §100.205(e). However, there is also safe harbor language in 42 U.S.C. §3604(f)(5), which provides that:
(5)(A) If a State or unit of general local government has incorporated into its laws the requirements set forth in paragraph (3)(C), compliance with such laws shall be deemed to satisfy the requirements of that paragraph.
(B) A State or unit of general local government may review and approve newly constructed covered multifamily dwellings for the purpose of making determinations as to whether the design and construction requirements of paragraph (3)(C) are met. More
After reading a recent blog in which the author asserted that “handicap” under the Fair Housing Act had the same meaning as “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act I thought it would be useful to re-visit this question, which I last wrote about in 2014. There have been a few new decisions, none decisive, and the bottom line remains the same. The 2008 amendments to the ADA changed the definition of “disabled,” but there was no equivalent amendment to the FHA. Ordinary principles of statutory interpretation require the conclusion that the two words no longer have the same meaning. For all the details see my earlier blog by clicking this LINK. It has been updated with the more recent decisions in this area.
By Richard Hunt in Accessibility Litigation Trends, FHA, FHA Statistics, Landlord-tenant, Multi-Family Tags: Fair Housing, Fair Housing Training, FHA, FHA Litigation, HUD, HUD guidance, HUD policies, HUD regulations
Today’s press release concerning HUD’s Fair Housing Initiative Program (“FHIP”) says all you need to know about HUD’s approach to eliminating housing discrimination. Out of more than $37 million dollars made available to improve fair housing in this program, HUD is spending about 20% on programs intended to educate the public and business about their rights and obligations, while 80% goes to funding private organizations that are in the business of either suing folks or filing HUD complaints. HUD is clearly much less interested in helping people obey the law than in punishing people who fail to obey it. The press release ends, of course, with information on how to file a complaint with HUD. There’s no mention of where to go for education on following the law. More