HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 08-156
Shantae Goodloe
(202) 708-0685
For Release
October 9, 2008


WASHINGTON - The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it has charged The Townsend House Corp., a private cooperative in New York City, with housing discrimination for refusing to allow a family to obtain an animal that provides emotional support for their autistic child.

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodation may be necessary to afford a person with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.

Maria Mostajo and Mark Schein are the parents of an 11-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Central Auditory Processing Disorder, which significantly impairs his day-to-day functioning and ability to learn and hear. To treat their son's disorders, the child's doctor prescribed to the parents that they acquire a support animal to provide emotional support for their son. Prior to acquiring an emotional support animal, the parents requested an exception to the co-op's no-pet policy.

After receiving documentation from doctors confirming the child's disabilities and need for an emotional support animal, the co-op agreed to permit the parents to obtain a dog for their son, but subject only to the terms contained in a Pets License Agreement, which was drafted specifically for this family. The parents alleged that the agreement contained unreasonable restrictions. In addition to requiring the parents to obtain insurance providing liability coverage of $1,000,000.00, the Agreement imposed other discriminatory terms, including a ten-pound weight limit; a limit on how long the service animal could be left alone in the apartment; and a requirement that the dog be muzzled when in the co-op's common areas. HUD's investigation confirmed that the Agreement contained unreasonable restrictions that in effect denied the reasonable accommodation to the child.

"It is not right or legal for landlords to dictate the unreasonable terms and conditions by which persons with disabilities should live their lives,"; said Kim Kendrick, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD is deeply committed to enforcing the Fair Housing Act to make sure that this does not happen."

The HUD charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in a federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages to each complainant for actual loss as a result of the discrimination, as well as damages for emotional distress, humiliation, and loss of civil rights. The judge may also order injunctive and other equitable relief to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney's fees. In addition to damages payable to a complainant, the judge may impose a civil penalty in order to vindicate the public interest. In the event of an election, a federal district court judge may also award punitive damages to a prevailing complainant.

FHEO and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate more than 10,000 housing complaints annually. People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available at Stay on top of the most up-to-date new regarding the Fair Housing Act by signing up for the FHEO RSS Feed.

HUD is the nation's housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet and


Content Archived: May 14, 2010