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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Tuesday that it is charging the owner and manager of a Salt Lake City apartment complex with housing discrimination.
The charges allege that manager Amy Sloan and property owner BJJ Enterprises, LLC, violated the Fair Housing Act by denying reasonable accommodation requests to potential residents with disabilities requiring the use of an assistance animal.
Pine Cove Apartments, at 1243 E. Alameda Avenue (about 50 South), has a strict no-pets policy, according to charges, and its rental agreement contains no exceptions for assistance animals and no procedures for requesting a reasonable accommodation to the policy for people with disabilities.
One such person, whose name was redacted from charging documents, requested housing for herself, her husband and a small dog of about 10 pounds in April 2015, charges state.
Although the potential resident "had paperwork from her doctor prescribing the animal as an emotional support," Sloan allegedly responded that "some tenants are allergic to dogs and other longtime residents simply do not want animals at the property."
The person contacted the Disability Law Center, which had apparently been conducting fair housing "tests" to see whether apartment management was being discriminatory or not, charges state.
In all three tests, conducted in June 2014, September 2014 and April 2015, Sloan "refused to grant reasonable accommodation requests" and "revealed discrimination against individuals with disabilities," charges say.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing to persons with disabilities, or from refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices for people with disabilities, a news release from HUD states.
"For nearly three decades, people with disabilities have had a right to request the reasonable accommodations they need to fully enjoy their homes, but that right is still being denied," Gustavo Velasquez, HUD's assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity said in the release. "HUD will continue to take actions that ensure that property owners and managers understand their rights and responsibilities under the law and take steps to comply with those obligations."
Disability is the most common basis of complaint filed with HUD and its partner agencies, the release said.
"Last year alone, HUD and its partners considered more than 4,500 disability-related complaints, nearly 55 percent of all fair housing complaints," the release stated.
A HUD administrative law judge will hear charges against Sloan and BJJ Enterprises, LLC. If the judge finds that discrimination has occurred, he may award damages, injunctive relief and other equitable relief to the complainants, the release said.
"In addition," the release said, "the judge may impose civil penalties in order to vindicate the public interest."