ICRC issues charge against Gene B. Glick Company/Brookview Apartments
The Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (“Commission,”) pursuant to statutory authority and procedural regulations, hereby issues the following findings. Reasonable cause exists to believe that an unlawful discriminatory practice occurred in this instance.
On January 14, 2015, Complainant filed a Complaint with the Commission against Gene B. Glick Company/Brookview Apartments (“Respondents”) alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Indiana Fair Housing Act) the Indiana Civil Rights Law and Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Accordingly, the Commission has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of this Complaint. An investigation has been completed. Both parties had an opportunity to submit evidence. Based on the final investigative report and a review of the relevant files and records, the Deputy Director now finds the following:
There are two issues pending before the Commission. The first issue before the Commission is whether Respondent refused to renew Complainant’s lease because of her disability.
By way of background, Complainant and Respondent entered into a lease agreement on or about October 1, 2013 for a one year term to expire on or about September 30, 2014. At all times relevant to the Complaint, the lease provided that residents shall comply with all reasonable rules and/or regulations including but not limited to those related to the safety, care, cleanliness, and quiet enjoyment of the property. Complainant was aware of these provisions as evidenced by her signature on the lease; nonetheless, during her tenure with Respondent, Complainant violated numerous terms of the lease including but not limited to taking and bringing unauthorized shopping carts onto the apartment’s premises despite being asked to stop, removing landscaping including soil and rocks, impersonating a staff member while inspecting another resident’s apartment, and refusing to allow pest control personnel to enter her unit after requesting their services. Despite repeated warnings regarding the violations and requesting compliance, Respondent mailed a Complainant a non-renewal notice on or about July 24, 2014, stating that the lease would not be renewed after expiration due to numerous lease violations. Ultimately, Respondent refused to renew Complainant’s lease after expiration.
Despite Complainant’s assertions, no evidence has been submitted or uncovered to support her allegations with respect to the first issue. Rather, evidence shows that Complainant failed to comply with Respondent’s reasonable terms and conditions on numerous occasions in contravention of the lease. Moreover, no evidence has been provided or uncovered to show that similarly-situated tenants without disabilities were treated more favorably under similar circumstances as Respondent evicted several tenants with numerous lease violations. As such and based upon the aforementioned, there is no reasonable cause to believe that Respondent violated the laws as alleged with respect to the first issue. Complainant may appeal the finding of no reasonable cause regarding the first issue to the full Commission.
The second issue before the Commission is whether the Respondent unreasonably delayed or denied Complainant’s request for a reasonable accommodation.
By way of background and at all times relevant to the Complaint, Respondent utilized a 504 reasonable accommodation committee to review all requests made by tenants for reasonable accommodations. During Complainant’s tenure with Respondent, both parties admit that a maintenance technician asked Complainant to remove her service animal from the laundry room. However, Respondent asserts that it retrained the technician regarding service animals and Complainant admits that she was permitted to take her service animal around the apartment, including the laundry room, without further issue. Nonetheless, after receiving the notice of non-renewal in July 2014, on or about August 12, 2014 and August 19, 2014, Complainant requested an accommodation of a six-month renewal of her lease with the possibility of future renewals if she was able to control her outburst during the initial six-month period. In support, evidence shows that Complainant tendered a doctor’s statement stating that “due to [Complainant’s] mental health problems, she has very poor coping skills and often reacts inappropriately to others. It is my understanding that she may be losing her place of residence due to her inappropriate reactions. Please excuse this behavior as [Complainant] has been in and out of mental health treatment for years. We are currently in the process of getting her reestablished with a mental health therapist.” Later, correspondence from Indiana Legal Services on behalf of Complainant stated that “[Complainant] is reconnecting with mental health experts for treatment and therapy so that she can better address the issues that led to a decision not to renew her lease.” Nonetheless, on or about August 21, 2014, Respondent denied the request asserting that there was no nexus between the theft of landscape items and impersonating property staff with her conditions. On or about September 2, 2014, Complainant, via representation from Indiana Legal Services, submitted a letter requesting an appeal of the August 21, 2014 decision. Specifically, the letter reasserted that Complainant’s “verbal outburst are due to her disability” and that she was “activity seeking treatment to address these issues.” While Complainant noted she was open to different period of time, Respondent denied the appeal on or about September 8, 2014, but agreed to give her until October 31, 2014 to find alternative housing and to vacate the premises. Complainant ultimately agreed to the one month extension upon which to find alternative housing; however, Respondent simply denied Complainant’s request to renew the lease for a period of time sufficient to address the underlying behaviors stemming from her disability.
Despite Respondents assertions, there is insufficient evidence to support its claims. Rather, Respondent admits that Complainant requested a reasonable accommodation to renew her lease for a short period of time while seeking treatment to address behaviors arising out of her medical condition. Nonetheless, despite medical evidence to the contrary, Respondent found that Complainant failed to establish a nexus between the behaviors at issue and Complainant’s disability. While Complainant offered an alternative accommodation, this accommodation did not permit Complainant the opportunity to seeking further medical treatment and remain in her housing with the possibility of renewal. Moreover, no evidence has been provided or uncovered to show that the six-month renewal period, contingent upon Complainant improving her behavior, was unreasonable or would establish an undue administrative burden upon Respondent. As such and based upon the aforementioned, reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory practice occurred as alleged with respect to the second issue.
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.