A Condo Association, a Man and His Emotional Support Animal, and the US Court of Appeals

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By Jeff Sorg, OnlineEd Blog

(May 11, 2016) – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it won an important Fair Housing Act victory in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The decision upheld a Final Order of the Secretary of HUD following a trial before an administrative law judge that a condominium association discriminated against a resident with disabilities by refusing to allow him to keep an emotional support animal.

“The decision is a victory for HUD, but an even greater victory for people with disabilities,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Not only does the decision reaffirm HUD’s authority to vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act, it also reinforces the importance of protecting the rights of residents with disabilities to have the reasonable accommodations they need.”

In October 2014, HUD found that the Castillo Condominium Association, located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, violated the rights of a homeowner with disabilities by refusing to allow him to keep an emotional support animal as a reasonable accommodation to the Association’s “no pets” policy. HUD ordered the Association to pay $20,000 in damages to the victim, who was forced to sell his condominium and find alternative housing as a result of the Association’s discriminatory conduct. HUD also ordered the Association to pay a $16,000 civil penalty.

The Association appealed the order to the First Circuit.  On May 2, 2016, the Court of Appeals ruled against the Association, affirming HUD’s finding that the Association violated the Fair Housing Act and ordering the Association to pay the damages and penalty.

The Fair Housing Act requires that housing providers, including condominium and homeowners associations, grant reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, or practices when such accommodations are necessary to afford a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing – this includes waiving “no pet” rules to allow emotional support animals.

Read the US Court of Appeals finding

[Source: US Department of Housing and Urban Development]

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Jeff Sorg

About the Author

Jeff Sorg is a co-founder of OnlineEd®, a Web-based vocational school founded in 1997 where he also serves as Corporate Secretary, Chief Operating Officer, and School Director. Sorg holds vocational instructor licenses in Oregon, Washington, California, and Nevada and has authored numerous pre-licensing and continuing education courses. Sorg was awarded the International Distance Education Certification Center's CDEi Designation for distance education in 2008. OnlineEd® provides real estate, mortgage broker, insurance, and contractor pre-license, post-license, continuing education, career enhancement, and professional development and designation courses over the Internet.