Three people who own and manage rental homes in and near Kelso and Longview, Wash., are being sued for violating the federal Fair Housing Act by discriminating against persons with disabilities.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, alleges that Linda Barber, Bert Barber and Lori Thompson discriminated against persons with disabilities by charging a mandatory $1,000 "pet deposit" for service animals with specialized training but not for other assistance animals, including emotional support animals.
The trio is also accused of refusing a tenant's requests for a reasonable accommodation to waive the $1,000 pet deposit for her assistance animal.
The lawsuit is the result of a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by a low-income tenant with a mental disability who repeatedly asked the defendants to waive the $1,000 pet deposit for her assistance animal. The complainant reportedly provided numerous notes from medical professionals. However the defendants allegedly declined to grant her request.
The complainant reportedly waited two and a half years to obtain an assistance animal and then began to pay the deposit in monthly installments at great financial hardship.
However, when the woman filed a complaint with HUD, the defendants subjected her to harassment, the lawsuit claims. After she moved out, HUD launched an investigation, which resulted in a charge of discrimination. The matter was referred to the Justice Department.
"The rights of our disabled citizens need to be protected, and landlords should not engage in conduct that makes their lives more difficult," said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan for the Western District of Washington. "A tenant should not have to repeatedly prove they need a service animal or other accommodation and should not face retaliation when they make a complaint to those tasked with protecting their civil rights."
The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants, monetary damages for those harmed by the defendants' actions and a civil penalty.