WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced that it is charging an Albany, New York-area apartment management company with violating the Fair Housing Act by denying a child who has disabilities a reasonable accommodation and retaliating against her family. According to HUD’s charge, Paulsen Development Company effectively barred the child from using the apartment complex swimming pool by prohibiting her needed service animal from accompanying her. After her mother complained to HUD, the company refused to renew their lease.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to grant persons with disabilities reasonable accommodations, including allowing the use of service animals. The Fair Housing Act also prohibits retaliating against a person for having exercised their fair housing rights.
“Without their service animal, many people with disabilities are unable to use their homes,” said John Trasviña, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will protect their right to a service animal and to be free from retaliation if they assert their rights.”
The service dog, prescribed by her doctor, is essential for daily tasks such as retrieving items, opening doors, turning light switches and carrying school books. According to the child’s doctor, the service animal promotes the child’s independence by decreasing her reliance on others.
According to the Charge, Paulson Development initially refused to allow the girl to have a service animal in the apartment. Later, management allowed the child to have the service dog in her unit, but refused to allow the animal to assist her in the pool area. After her mother protested, management refused to renew their lease and gave the family 60 days to vacate the apartment.
The HUD charge will be heard by either a United States Administrative Law Judge or in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the family for its losses and order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest and award attorney fees. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to the aggrieved persons.
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).