WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it is charging Perry Homes, Inc., and Whittington and Whittington, doing business as Perry Homes, with violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to allow assistance animals in rental properties in Harmony, Cranberry Township, and Zelienople, Pennsylvania. HUD’s charge specifically alleges that rental agents for Perry Homes told fair housing testers posing as prospective tenants with disabilities that they could accept service animals but were not permitted to accept “emotional support” animals. Read HUD’s charge.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against people with disabilities, including refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when such accommodations may be necessary to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling. This includes permitting persons with disabilities to have service animals or assistance animals. Housing providers, unlike public accommodations, may not prohibit people with disabilities from having assistance animals that perform work or tasks, or that provide disability-related emotional support.
“Assistance animals provide an invaluable service to people who have disabilities, including disabilities affecting mental health,” said Jeanine Worden, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “[This] action demonstrates HUD’s commitment to ensuring that housing providers follow the law by recognizing the right of persons with a disability-need for assistance animals to have that accommodation.”
“HUD will vigorously enforce the rights of persons with disabilities to receive the reasonable accommodations they need to enjoy their homes,” said Damon Y. Smith, HUD’s Principal Deputy General Counsel. “HUD is committed to ensuring that housing providers do not discriminate against persons with disabilities who need assistance animals.”
The case came to HUD’s attention when Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services (SPLS), a HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program agency, filed a complaint after testers posing as prospective tenants who said they had assistance animals were told that the animals were not allowed. Specifically, according to HUD’s charge, Perry Homes rental agents told testers that only registered service animals that had been trained for a specific duty would be permitted, and that Perry Homes was not obligated to accept “emotional support” animals.
HUD’s charge will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party elects for the case to be heard in federal court. If the administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, the judge may award damages to the complainant for losses that have resulted from 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.
People 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) 877-8339 (Relay). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to hud.gov/fairhousing. For more information about assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act, please see: https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PA/documents/HUDAsstAnimalNC1-28-2020.pdf.
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