|HUD No. 11-232
September 26, 2011
HUD CHARGES WASHINGTON STATE PROPERTY OWNER WITH DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION
Lakewood mobile home park operator refused to accommodate applicants with service dogs
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced that it has charged the owner and manager of a Lakewood, Washington trailer park with discriminating on the basis of disability. HUD brings the charge on behalf of the Fair Housing Center of Washington, alleging that Deidra Miller, the owner of Terrace Trailers, and property manager Claudia Welch refused to make a reasonable accommodation to their "no pets" policy for testers posing as applicants with disabilities who needed service dogs.
The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations in their rules or policies if necessary to afford equal housing opportunities to persons with disabilities.
"The Fair Housing Act requires that landlords honor requests for animals like service dogs if a person with a disability requires that dog for daily life activities," said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "In these cases, people with disabilities are not seeking special treatment; they are seeking the equal opportunity to enjoy their dwelling just as anyone else can."
According to HUD's charge, the Fair Housing Center of Washington (FHCW), a local non-profit organization, initiated testing after seeing an advertisement for a rental unit at Terrace Trailers indicating a "no pets" policy during a random audit of online rental postings. The craigslist.com ad provided Welch's and Miller's names and telephone numbers. Testers posing as persons requiring service dogs called the numbers provided to inquire about the advertised rentals. In two separate tests, Welch told the testers that animals were not allowed even after the testers explained that their dogs were service animals. After checking with Miller, Welch confirmed to the second tester that Miller would not make a reasonable accommodation to allow the service dog. Welch allegedly told the testers that if their service animals were permitted, "then everyone will want one."
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 illegal discrimination has occurred, he may award monetary damages to the Fair Housing Center.
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 to aggrieved persons.
HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and http://espanol.hud.gov. You can also follow HUD on twitter @HUDgov, on facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news alerts on HUD's News Listserv.