Landlord Charged with Not Providing Reasonable Accommodation

The Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (“Commission,”) has issued these findings in regards to the following case of Complainants request for reasonable accommodation.  The charge states that probable cause exists to believe that an unlawful discriminatory practice has occurred (Ind. Code § 22-9, et seq.).

By way of background, Complainant signed a lease agreement with Respondent on or about October 1, 2014. The lease prohibited pets and explicitly provided that “no pets shall be on the premises.” While Respondent denies that Complainant requested a reasonable accommodation to have an emotional support animal on the premises or that he was aware of a doctor’s statement in support of the request, evidence discovered during the course of the investigation contradicts this assertion. Both Complainant and her witness assert that Complainant showed Respondent a medical statement from 2014 providing that “a companion animal, such as a cat or small dog, would in my opinion provide additional therapeutic benefits.” During her tenancy with Respondent, Complainant obtained a cat for emotional support; however, upon discovering the cat, Respondent tendered Complainant an eviction notice stating that “you have a pet.  There is to be no pet on the premises. You must vacate my house by 4-30-2015.”  Ultimately, Complainant vacated the premises.   

Despite Respondent’s assertions, there is insufficient evidence to support his claims. Witness testimony supports Complainant’s claim that she requested a reasonable accommodation to have an emotional support animal and tendered Respondent a doctor’s statement supporting the request.  No evidence has been submitted by Respondent or uncovered during the course of the investigation to show that Respondent entered into the interactive dialogue process with Complainant in an attempt to preserve her tenancy.  Further, no evidence has been provided by Respondent or uncovered during the investigation to show that permitting Complainant to have an emotional support animal was unreasonable or would create an undue administrative and financial burden upon the Respondent.  Therefore, reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory practice occurred as alleged.

The issue before the Commission is whether Respondent denied Complainant’s request for a reasonable accommodation. In order to prevail, Complainant must show that: 1) she is member of a protected class; 2) Respondent was aware or should have been aware of Complainant’s disability; 3) she requested a reasonable accommodation necessary to allow her an equal opportunity to remain in the premises; and 4) Respondent unreasonably denied or delayed Complainant’s request for a reasonable accommodation.  It is evident that Complainant is a member of a protected class by virtue of her disability.  While Respondent asserts that it was unaware of Complainant’s disability, evidence shows that he should have known of such; moreover, evidence shows that Complainant requested a reasonable accommodation and that Respondent denied her request.   

A public hearing is necessary to determine whether a violation of the Indiana Fair Housing Act and/or the Indiana Civil Rights Law occurred. 

Click here for official notice of findings.