By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Two condo associations in New Jersey settled complaints filed by residents, both of them fair housing claims following denial of their requests for support animals.
The first settlement involved a dispute between tenant T.D. and Harbortown Sail condominium association, Perth Amboy. T.D. suffers from medical conditions that cause chronic pain and anxiety. She obtained a docor’s written recommendation for a support animal to alleviate symptoms and to supplement prescription medications.
Harbortown denied the request because it was not written on a doctor’s prescription pad, and threatened to evict T.D. and her spouse. The tenant gave up the support animal to avoid eviction, then filed her complaint against the condo association.
The association had no written policy regarding the format of a doctor’s letter explaining the need for a support animal. Furthermore, the 55-plus townhouse community allows unit owner to have pets, but has a no-pet policy for tenants.
Harbortown Sail agreed to pay $10,000 to T.D., and to remove all charges for association legal fees from the tenant’s account. The Association also agrees to update its policies to comply with federal and state law, and to review any future request for accommodation of a support animal from T.D., or other residents, on a case-by-case basis.
A second settlement involved the owner of an apartment in a Ridgefield Park co-op. The man, known as H.G., requested a 5-pound support dog shortly after moving into his unit. The request was supported by a letter from his doctor. Landmark East Corporation not only denied the request, but also accused the resident of dishonesty and “fraudulent” behavior, threatening to evict the resident and terminate his share of ownership in the cooperative.
Landmark agreed to pay $16,000 to H.G. Both Landmark and its management agent, Wilkin Management Group, agreed to attend training on fair housing laws as they pertain to disabled residents, service animals, and support animals. The Housing Division will monitor the conduct of the Association and its management agent for two years.
Both cases illustrate that residents with invisible disabilities are entitled to accommodations under federal and state fair housing acts.
Requests for support animals can be controversial in association-governed communities, especially in multifamily housing associations with no-pet policies.
The ADA National Network explains the distinctions between support animals and service animals, and individual rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Housing rights for individuals requesting accommodation of services and assistance/support animals are specified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in their official letter, Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-Funded Programs (FHEO-2013-01).
NJ CONDO BOARDS OWE RESIDENTS THOUSANDS FOR BANNING SUPPORT ANIMALS
May 23, 2018
Two pet owners who say they were discriminated against because they were not allowed to have their support animals live with them scored victories after a state watchdog agency sicced attorneys on their condo boards.
The settlements were announced by the state Attorney General’s Office, with one person from Perth Amboy getting $10,000 and other concessions, and another from Ridgefield Park getting $16,000.
“These are fair settlements that resolve troubling cases — cases in which residents with a documented disability were treated in ‘hardball’ fashion by governing boards that apparently did not recognize the distinction between a pet and a clinically-prescribed emotional support animal,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.