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Landlords Agree to Settle Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

The Justice Department today announced that Longview, Washington, landlords Linda and Bert Barber, and their management agent, Lori Thompson, have entered into a consent decree and have agreed pay $25,000 to resolve claims that they discriminated on the basis of disability by refusing to grant a reasonable accommodation to waive a $1,000 pet deposit for a tenant with mental disabilities who needed a dog as an emotional support animal.‚Äč

The consent decree resolves a lawsuit filed by the department on July 1, 2013, alleging that the defendants refused to grant a waiver of the pet deposit despite numerous attempts by the tenant to provide documentation of her disability and her need for the emotional support animal.  The complaint also alleged that the defendants retaliated against the tenant after she filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and referred the matter to the Justice Department.  The department’s complaint also alleged that defendants’ policies constituted a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act because they allowed reasonable accommodations for specially-trained service animals but precluded reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals.  Defendants also refused to consider accommodation requests unless tenants had their physician complete forms that threatened penalty of perjury and threatened to require the physician to defend the information provided in court.  Trial was set to begin on Nov. 19.

The settlement, which was approved today by Judge Benjamin H. Settle, requires the defendants to pay $20,000 to the HUD complainant and $5,000 to the United States.  The settlement also requires that the defendants adopt a reasonable accommodation policy that complies with the Fair Housing Act, receive training on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act and report to the department for a period of eighteen months on their compliance with the settlement.  Read More