UTAH — The owner and manager of a Utah apartment complex is being charged with housing discrimination after allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act by denying a disabled resident’s accommodation request to keep an assistance animal.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the charge Tuesday, noting that the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing to persons with disabilities, or from refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices for people with disabilities.
The case came to light when the Disability Law Center filed a fair housing complaint with the housing department, commonly known as HUD, on behalf of a female resident with disabilities at Pine Cove Apartments in Salt Lake City.
The woman alleged that the owner, BJJ Enterprises, and the manager of the apartment complex denied her request to keep an assistance animal, according to the HUD Public Affairs office.
“The Disability Law Center conducted fair housing tests, which revealed evidence that Pine Cove managers discriminated against people with disabilities,” HUD officials said Tuesday.
According to HUD’s charge, Pine Cove strictly adheres to its “no-pets” policy, even when medical documentation attesting to the need for a reasonable accommodation is presented.
“For nearly three decades, people with disabilities have had a right to request the reasonable accommodations they need to fully enjoy their homes, but that right is still being denied,” Gustavo Velasquez, HUD’s assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity said in a statement.
Velasquez added that HUD will continue to take actions that ensure that property owners and managers understand their rights and responsibilities under the law and take steps to comply with those obligations.
Disability is the most common basis of complaint filed with HUD and its partner agencies. Last year, HUD and its partners considered more than 4,500 disability-related complaints, accounting for nearly 55 percent of all fair housing complaints, according to the department’s public affairs office.
The Utah case will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge.
If it is found that discrimination occurred, the judge may award damages to the complainants for their loss as a result of the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, as well as payment of attorney fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest.
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