Federal housing officers are charging a pair of New York landlords with violating truthful housing regulation for making no exceptions for emotional help animals of their “no pets” coverage.
On Monday, the U.S. Division of Housing and City Improvement (HUD) introduced it had filed a criticism in opposition to Ronit and Voyl “Tom” Mecham—homeowners of a two-unit rental property in Jamestown, New York—for denying a tenant’s requests to maintain a cat on the premises.
The Mecham’s tenant, whose identify is redacted within the criticism, had requested in November 2021 that they be allowed to have the cat as a part of the remedy they have been receiving for unspecified psychological well being points. The tenant mentioned they would offer a physician’s word justifying the emotional help cat.
In December, Tom Mecham instructed the tenant—who had been residing on the property since February 2021—that they might not enable a cat on the property, however they might enable them to get out of their lease early in the event that they wished to maneuver.
The tenant’s subsequent requests for an exemption to the “no pets” coverage went unanswered, in accordance with the criticism. Finally, in Could 2022, the tenant went forward and purchased an emotional help cat anyway.
That did not seem to trigger any rapid points, because the tenant continued to stay on the Mechams’ property by August 2022. That month, the tenant knowledgeable the property homeowners that they have been transferring out.
Solely throughout a move-out inspection did the difficulty of the cat resurface. In response to the criticism, Ronit Mecham instructed the tenant she ought to have disclosed her psychological well being points earlier than transferring in and will have moved out if she wished a cat.
That remark appears to have been the top of it.
The HUD criticism says the tenant suffered emotional and bodily misery because of the Mecham’s “discriminatory conduct”—however does not record every other penalty they suffered.
For HUD, that is however sufficient to qualify as unlawful incapacity discrimination underneath the Truthful Housing Act.
“Help animals present folks with disabilities the help they should take pleasure in the advantages of their housing,” mentioned Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s principal assistant deputy secretary for truthful housing and equal alternative, in a press launch. “HUD is dedicated to zealously imposing the Act to guard the rights of people with disabilities.”
HUD’s criticism calls for that the Mechams take proactive steps to “treatment the results of [their] unlawful, discriminatory conduct.” It additionally seeks financial damages to compensate the tenant for the injury they suffered for not getting permission to maintain an emotional help cat of their home.
These financial damages may very well be substantial.
In 2021, a New Hampshire landlord agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a good housing lawsuit introduced by the feds over their failure to make an emotional help animal exception to the “no pets” coverage at their property.
In 2019, the Meeker Housing Authority, which operates low-income housing in Meeker, Colorado, was compelled to pay $1 million after shedding a discrimination lawsuit that challenged its coverage of charging a pet payment to folks seeking to preserve emotional help animals.
HUD’s cost of discrimination was filed on September 15. The Mechams have 20 days from that date to request a civil trial in federal courtroom. If neither they nor their former tenant resolve to take that possibility, the case can be heard by a HUD administrative regulation decide.