A Oneida landlord has been accused of discriminating against a tenant with mental disabilities by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As we have previously written about, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants based on a variety of protected classes of people under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
The Case in Madison County NY
In August 2015, a prospective tenant told a Madison County landlord that she had an assistance dog to help her cope with a psychiatric condition, and therefore she was not subject to paying a pet deposit or a pet fee to rent his apartment. The initial lease she signed waived the $50 pet fee, but a few days later, the landlord had her sign an additional lease which said she could not talk about the accommodation and that she had to make sure the dog did not bark too much.
When the tenant then got a job, the landlord tried to revoke the original lease with the pet fee waiver to make her pay. She refused. The landlord then began trying to evict her from the apartment, even enlisting the help of a neighbor by having the neighbor tell her she had to leave. The woman and her therapy dog eventually moved out.
In December 2015, the landlord sent the tenant a letter saying she owed him almost $950 in fees, including a pet deposit and four months of pet fees. In the letter, the landlord also threatened to countersue the woman if she took action against him.
Fair Housing Prohibits Discrimination in New York
According to New York FHA laws, discrimination is prohibited against a number of statuses, including disability. A psychiatric issue is just as much of a disability as being confined to a wheelchair or being blind. Perhaps the landlord in question here did not take the tenant's assistance dog serious, but the fact is that after waiving the pet fee for her, he then tried to force her to pay a deposit and fees that she was not subject to paying.
It is also illegal to threaten or coerce a person who seeks to exercise their fair housing rights. An administrative law judge will hear the case in a HUD court, and if discrimination is determined to have happened, the tenant could be awarded damages.
What Should You Do If Your FHA Rights Are Violated?
If you believe your Fair Housing Act rights have been violated by a landlord, you need an attorney who will examine the details of your case and fight for your rights. Initial consultations are free, so fill out a contact form right away.