HUD charges St. Cloud apartment manager with discrimination for not allowing therapy pet
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging a St. Cloud, MN, apartment owner with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly citing a “no pets” policy after learning that a prospective resident with disabilities required an emotional support animal.
The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations in their rules, policies, practices or services when needed to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling.
“Support animals can be essential to persons with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities,” said Bryan Greene, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Housing Providers must make exceptions to ‘no-pets’ policies if a person with a disability requires an animal to fulfill a major life activity.”
The charge resulted from a complaint filed with HUD by a woman who visited the apartments in St. Cloud and inquired with its owner, Kurt Schimnich, about renting one of the apartments. Schimnich allegedly refused to show an available apartment to the woman upon seeing her dog, citing a “no pets” policy. According to HUD’s charge, the woman explained that she was disabled and the dog was a support animal. Schimnich still refused to show the apartment.
HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to the complainant. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose fines in order to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages.
Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed at www.hud.gov/fairhousing or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.