Pennsylvania landlord sued by DOJ for discrimination, refusing to allow disabled tenants to keep support animals

Kristen Walters

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania property management company alleging discrimination on the basis of disability and refusing to make reasonable accommodations as required under the Fair Housing Act.
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A legal complaint filed in federal court by the U.S. Department of Justice alleges that Perry Homes, Inc., a property management company headquartered in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, violated the rights of multiple disabled tenants who rented apartments at their Old Towne Rentals property.

The first allegation involves a former tenant named Alison (note the tenant's full name is listed in the complaint; however, due to the nature of the case, we are choosing not to publish her full name for privacy reasons.)

According to the complaint, Alison is "a person with a disability and has a mental health impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." Alison had lived at Old Towne Rentals for over a year when her therapist recommended that she get "an assistance animal."

Since Old Towne Rentals has a "no pets" policy, Alison emailed Perry Homes, Inc. to request "reasonable accommodations" be made for her on the basis of her disability.

According to the complaint, Alison attached a statement from her healthcare provider and requested Perry Homes Inc. to contact her therapist if they had any questions.

Allegedly, Perry Homes Inc. denied the request and did not contact Alison's health care provider to verify or obtain any additional information.

The complaint also states that an attorney for Perry Homes Inc. called Alison and told her she had 48 hours to leave her apartment or the police would be called, even though she had several months left on her lease.

A separate allegation was made in the complaint involving a former tenant named "Sarah." According to the pleadings, Sarah has "a mental health impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities."

Sarah had benefited from having a cat as a companion in the past, so she allegedly wrote to Perry Homes to let them know about her mental disability and to ask what documentation would be necessary for her to obtain an "emotional support animal."

According to the complaint, Sarah provided Perry Homes with a letter from her nurse as documentation in support of her accommodation request. Perry Homes denied Sarah's request, alleging that she had not adequately established that she had a disability.

The Department of Justice has alleged in their complaint filed on behalf of Alison and Sarah that the refusal to make reasonable accommodation for their tenant's disability violates the Fair Housing Act.

We will follow this case as it develops and report on any updates or court rulings as they come out.

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