Tenant sued Homeowners Association for Failure to Accommodate His Support Animal under the Fair Housing Act
Real Case: In 2010, Carlo Giménez Bianco (Giménez) asked the Board of Directors of the Castillo Condominium Association (Castillo Condominium or the Association) for permission to keep an emotional support animal in his condominium unit to help him cope with his depression and anxiety. Despite providing evidence from his treating psychiatrist, the HOA refused to allow Giménez to keep the animal and made clear it would fine him $100/month unless he removed the dog from his unit. As a result, Giménez was forced to move out of the condominium that had been his home for 15 years. Gimenez filed a complaint and it was determined that the Fair Housing Act had been violated.
- FHA Law: The FHA prohibits “discriminat[ing] in the sale or rental, or otherwise mak[ing] unavailable or deny[ing], a dwelling to any buyer or renter, because of a handicap of-- that buyer or renter, [or] a person residing in or intending to reside in that dwelling after it is so sold, rented, or made available.” 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(1)(A) and (B). The Act also prohibits discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling, because of a handicap of that person; or a person residing in or intending to reside in that dwelling after it is so sold, rented, or made available. 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(2)(A) and (B).
- Definition of Discrimination under the FHA. Discrimination includes “a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford [an individual with a disability] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(B).
- Proving a Failure to Accommodate. To establish a failure to accommodate under the FHA, the plaintiff must show that (1) the complainant has a disability within the meaning of the Act; (2) the respondent knew or should reasonably have known of his disability; (3) the complainant requested a reasonable accommodation that is “necessary to allow him an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the housing in question”; and (4) the respondent refused to make the requested accommodation.
- Definition of a Handicap. The FHA defines “[h]andicap” as “(1) a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities, (2) a record of having such an impairment, or (3) - 30 - being regarded as having such an impairment.” 42 U.S.C. 3602(h). A “mental impairment” includes, inter alia, “[a]ny mental or psychological disorder, such as emotional or mental illness.” 24 C.F.R. 100.201. The term “‘[s]ubstantially’ in the phrase ‘substantially limits’ suggests ‘considerable’ or ‘to a large degree.’”
- Definition of a Major Life Activity. The term “major life activities” covers a broad range of conduct. “Major life activities means functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working.” 24 C.F.R. 100.201(b); see also Toyota, 534 U.S. at 197 (“‘Major life activities’ refers to those activities that are of central importance to daily life.”).
Example of a Limitation of a Major Life Activity. In one case, the disabled plaintiffs long history of anxiety and depression were considered at least two of the plaintiffs major life activities: sleeping and interacting with others.
- Caring for oneself
- Performing manual tasks; and
California State practices Fair Housing care for owners and tenants. For advice, a consultation, or legal opinion; Call Catherine Corfee at 916-487-5441