Bluffington Properties charged with discrimination by ICRC E.D.

The Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (“Commission”) pursuant to statutory authority and procedural regulations, hereby issues the following finding with respect to the case number HOha15010033 against Bluffton Properties, LLC/Maple Grove Trailer Park (Respondent).  Reasonable cause exists to believe that an unlawful discriminatory practice occurred in this instance.  A Charge is therefore issued in accordance with 910 IAC 2-6-6(b).

By way of background, Complainant applied to rent a two-bedroom apartment from Respondent in November 2014.  At all times relevant to the Complaint, Respondent’s policies and procedures required applicants to submit to background and credit checks.  Pursuant to policy and procedure, Respondent conducted a background check on Complainant and learned that Complainant had three disorderly conduct convictions, one criminal damaging conviction, at least 10 passing bad check convictions, several convictions related to the failure to confine a dog, and at least one eviction.  It is important to note that several of the criminal convictions occurred recently including the eviction judgment entered in approximately November 2014.  Ultimately, on or around December 8, 2014, Respondent denied Complainant’s application to rent.

Despite Complainant’s assertions, there is insufficient evidence to show that the denial of rent was related to her grandson’s disability.  Rather, evidence has been provided to show that Complainant was unqualified to rent from Respondent in a manner consistent with its reasonable terms and conditions.  Moreover, no evidence has been provided or uncovered to show that Respondent rented apartments to applicants without disabled children with similar criminal histories.  As such and based upon the aforementioned, there is no probable cause to believe that a discriminatory practice occurred as alleged.      

Complainant may appeal the above no reasonable cause finding regarding the first issue to the full Commission.

The second issue before the Commission is whether Respondent unreasonably delayed or denied Complainant’s request for a reasonable accommodation.

During the course of the application process, Complainant alerted Respondent that her grandson used a service dog and provided a doctor’s statement dated on or about November 3, 2014.  However, Complainant asserts and Respondent admits that on or about December 8, 2014, Respondent told Complainant that the documentation was insufficient to establish that the dog was a “service dog” because the documentation called the dog an “emotional support animal” and that she needed to “register the dog as a service animal.”  Further, Respondent admitted during the investigative process that they have breed restrictions, including the prohibition against pit bulls and German shepherds.  It is important to note that evidence suggests that Complainant’s grandson uses a German shepherd as an emotional support animal. 

Despite Respondent’s assertions, there is insufficient evidence to support their claims.  Rather, Respondent admits that it imposes breed restrictions on all dogs and evidence appears that this restriction also applies to emotional support and service animals in contravention of the law.  Further, as emotional support animals are not required to be “registered” under the Indiana Fair Housing Act or Federal Fair Housing Act, the request to have the animal “registered” is a violation of the applicable acts.  Moreover, the doctor’s statement provided by Complainant establishes a clear nexus between her grandson’s disability and the requested accommodation; as such, the request for additional documentation is also a violation of the law.  Simply stated, reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory practice occurred as alleged.    

A public hearing is necessary to determine whether a violation of the Indiana Fair Housing Act, the Indiana Civil Rights Law, and/or Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended, occurred in the aforementioned case.