WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced that it is charging two Poughkeepsie, New York-area landlords with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly refusing to allow a Vietnam-era veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to have a therapeutic service dog in his apartment. In addition, HUD’s charge contends that the landlords, Gerald and Patrick Paribelli, who manage and own the Apartment Buildings of South Street Builders, Inc., in Highland, NY, retaliated against the veteran by threatening to evict him because he filed a housing discrimination complaint.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to grant persons with disabilities reasonable accommodations, such as changes to rules, policies or practices that allow them to fully enjoy their home. The Fair Housing Act also prohibits coercing, intimidating, threatening, or interfering with a person for having exercised their fair housing rights.
"Every day, the men and women of our armed services risk their lives to defend our freedom," said John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "It’s our duty to ensure that our service members, as well as everyone who calls America home, have access to safe and affordable housing, free from discrimination. HUD will continue to vigorously enforce our nation’s fair housing laws on behalf of our nation’s veterans and those currently serving."
In his complaint, which was filed with HUD and the New York State Division of Human Rights, the resident alleged that the owners failed to grant his request for a reasonable accommodation when they denied his use of a service animal doctors had prescribed to reduce his post-traumatic stress, depression and seizures. Although one of the owners acknowledged that he had heard of assistance animals being used to treat these disorders, the landlords denied the tenant’s requests for a therapeutic service dog because his apartment building had a "no-pets" policy. HUD’s charge of discrimination also asserts that the landlords told the tenant that he would need to start looking for another place to live because he had filed a housing discrimination complaint.
The HUD charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an ALJ finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, the ALJ may award damages to the complainant for the damages suffered as a result of the discrimination. The ALJ may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the ALJ may impose civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest. A federal district court judge may also award punitive damages to the complainant.
FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 10,000 housing discrimination complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 800-927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available here.