Saturday, May 27, 2017

Another Service Pooch Takes Bite Out Of Discriminating Landlord's Wallet; Civil Rights Feds Score $37K+ Jury Verdict Against Landlord Who Insisted On Charging Disabled Tenant A $1,000 Pet Deposit For Her Assistance Animal

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • A federal jury in Butte, Montana today [May 17] returned a $37,343 verdict against a Bozeman, Montana landlord for charging a tenant with physical and psychiatric disabilities $1,000 to have a service animal, the Justice Department announced today.

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Butte, alleged that Jaclyn Katz, the owner and manager of rental properties in Bozeman, discriminated against Kristen Newman, a tenant with physical and psychiatric disabilities, by charging her a $1,000 deposit as a condition for allowing her to keep her service dog, Riley.

    At trial, Newman, her treating therapist and an independent expert testified that Riley assisted Newman in living with the symptoms of her disabilities, including providing emotional support, helping to predict migraines, and reducing suicidal thoughts. Newman also testified that she repeatedly informed Katz that charging a deposit for a service animal was illegal and that Newman understood that she would have to pay for any actual damage caused by her service dog. Nevertheless, Katz continued to levy this charge and, at one point, even threatened to terminate Newman’s tenancy. The case arose out of a complaint filed by Newman with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    The verdict includes $11,043 in compensatory damages for Newman, $20,000 in punitive damages for Newman, and $6,300 for Montana Fair Housing, Inc.,(1) which assisted Newman with her fair housing complaint.

    “Persons with disabilities have the right to live in and enjoy their communities, just as all families do throughout our nation,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We commend the jury for recognizing that the Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against persons with disabilities, and we will continue to work to eliminate discriminatory barriers in housing for persons with disabilities.”
    ***
    The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Persons who believe that they have experienced unlawful housing discrimination may contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, or by e-mail at fairhousing@usdoj.gov.
Source: Justice Department Obtains $37,000 Verdict in Disability Discrimination Case Against Montana Landlord.

For the lawsuit, see U.S.A. v. Katz, et ano.
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(1) Montana Fair Housing is a Butte-based, private, full service, non-profit organization dedicated to the elimination of housing discrimination, and the advancement of civil rights in the state of Montana. It investigates allegations of discrimination in housing, counsels victims of discrimination, and facilitates both the state and federal complaint process. It also assist victims of housing discrimination, under specific circumstances, in securing the representation of counsel when the filing of a complaint in court is deemed the best option.

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