In an action sure to send shivers through co-op and condo boards across New York, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has charged a Long Island condominium complex and its management company with discriminating against a disabled resident who claims the complex blocked her from keeping her two dogs as emotional support animals, Newsday reports.
The agency is alleging that Pinewood Estates at Commack and its management company, Fairfield Properties, violated the federal Fair Housing Act by failing to make a reasonable accommodation and allowing the resident to keep her dogs, which she claims help her manage anxiety, panic disorder and panic attacks.
“Assistance animals aren’t pets,” Anna Maria Farias, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “They make it easier for persons with disabilities to perform life’s daily functions.”
Steven Losquadro, an attorney for Fairfield Properties, said the company “is not the owner of the complex, and is merely the property manager,” adding that policies are set by the condo board and that Fairfield “actively promotes compliance with all fair-housing requirements.”
The case will be heard by an administrative law judge, HUD said, unless one of the parties asks for it to be heard in federal district court.
HUD filed the case on behalf of the resident and her mother, who is co-owner of a condo in the 42-unit complex. The pair moved into the complex in 2016 with two dogs, a small pug and a boxer that weighed more than 30 pounds. The complex allows residents to keep one dog – and only if it weighs less than 30 pounds, according to HUD. The pair believed they would be able to keep both dogs since the pug fell under the rules and the boxer was registered as an emotional support animal. A month after the pair moved in, the complex sent them a letter saying they were in violation of the pet policy. Four years later, the parties are headed for court.
HUD is asking a judge to award damages, impose a penalty, and issue an order preventing “similar occurrences” in the future.
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