Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Philadelphia Homeowners association charged with discriminating against residents with disabilities

The association required residents needing assistance animals to use service elevators, failed to
address harassment and intimidation

Posted By CotoBlogzz

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced yesterday that it is charging a Philadelphia condominium association with violating the Fair Housing Act for refusing to revise its “no pets” policy as a reasonable accommodation for condominium residents with disabilities who required assistance animals.

The charges allege that The Philadelphian Owners' Association (POA), which manages the 776-unit Philadelphian condominium complex, required that residents provide burdensome and invasive medical documentation before requests for accommodation would be considered, severely limited access to the complex's facilities for residents accompanied by assistance animals, and failed to address several instances of harassment of residents requiring assistance animals.

The Fair Housing Act requires property managers, including condominium associations, to make reasonable accommodations to no-pet rules for persons with disabilities who require assistance animals.

HUD's charge is also based on the results of a "Secretary-initiated investigation," which HUD conducted to protect the interests of other residents who used or sought to use assistance animals, because the policies suggested systemic violations of the Fair Housing Act that went beyond the allegations of the individual who filed a complaint.

According to HUD's charge, the POA implemented increasingly restrictive and onerous policies over a twenty-year period.  In a new 2011 policy, the POA issued detailed "Instructions for Physicians for Documenting Disability Under the Federal Fair Housing Act," which required exhaustive documentation to support a doctor's opinion about the necessity of an assistance animal, and stated, "it may be necessary for you to testify under oath in federal court about your opinion."  The 2011 policy banned persons using assistance animals from accessing the main lobby, shuttle bus, social rooms, fitness rooms, mail room, and laundry room, and required them to use the service elevator.  HUD's charge alleges that, as a result of the restrictive policies of The Philadelphian, residents with disabilities have been discouraged from requesting needed assistance animals.

People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 (voice), (800) 927-9275 (TTY).

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