|HUD No. 11-248
October 11, 2011
HUD CHARGES UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT KEARNEY WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST STUDENT WITH DISABILITIES
University denied student's request to have therapy dog live with her on campus
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it is charging the University of Nebraska at Kearney and five of its employees with violating the Fair Housing Act when they refused to grant a student permission to have a therapy dog live in her University-owned apartment and illegally inquired into the nature and severity of the student's disabilities. The student, who required the dog in order to cope with depression and anxiety, was seeking an exception to the University's no-pet policy as a disability-related "reasonable accommodation" under the Fair Housing Act.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, practices or services when needed to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling. It is also unlawful under the Fair Housing Act to inquire whether an applicant for a dwelling has a disability or to inquire as to the nature or severity of a disability of such a person, with limited exceptions.
"Allowing a student to live with an assistance animal promotes independent living, and can mean the difference between having a college opportunity or not," said John Trasviña, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "Like other housing providers, colleges and universities must follow the Fair Housing Act and make reasonable accommodations in housing for persons with disabilities."
According to HUD's charge, the student provided the University with information from her medical provider establishing a need for a therapy animal. However, the University sought additional information that was unnecessary to evaluate the student's reasonable accommodation request including treatment information, her prescribed medications, and a clinical summary of her limitations. The University ultimately denied the student's request asserting that the Fair Housing Act did not apply to the University-owned apartment complex. As a result of the denial, the student was forced to move out of University housing and withdrew from the University.
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, she may award monetary damages to the aggrieved person. 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 and its partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigate approximately 10,000 housing discrimination 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 www.hud.gov/fairhousing. Stay on top of the most up-to-date news regarding the Fair Housing Act by signing up for the FHEO RSS Feed.
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.