US Legal Announcements – US Attorney Sues Manhattan Co-Op For Discrimination Against Disabled Child – See for Online Solicitors Jobs

LawFuel – Legal Announcements – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has filed a lawsuit against the TOWNSEND HOUSE CORP., a
co-operative apartment building located at 176 East 71st Street,
in Manhattan, for violating the Fair Housing Act. The Government
alleges that the TOWNSEND HOUSE CORP. discriminated against two
tenants of the building and their eleven-year-old disabled child
by failing to permit a reasonable accommodation for the child’s
developmental disability. According to the Complaint filed in
Manhattan federal court:

The child has been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum
Disorder (“Asperger’s Syndrome”), a pervasive developmental
disorder, and Central Auditory Processing Disorder. The child’s
parents requested an exception to the building’s “no pet” policy
to allow their child a medically prescribed support dog which
would assist the child with social integration, relationship
skills, and provide companionship. TOWNSEND HOUSE’s delay in
responding to the parents’ request and the unreasonable
restrictions TOWNSEND HOUSE imposed on its purported exception to
the building’s “no-pet” policy constituted a constructive denial
of the parents’ request for a reasonable accommodation of their
child’s disability.

In January 2007, the parents wrote a letter to TOWNSEND
HOUSE requesting a reasonable accommodation for their child,
including psychological reports to confirm the child’s diagnoses
and literature outlining the benefits of having a dog, which they
followed, upon the TOWNSEND HOUSE’s request in April 2007, with
two letters from the child’s medical providers addressing his
disability and recommending a support animal.

In August 2007, TOWNSEND HOUSE asked to have an
independent professional retained to confirm the child’s medical
condition. In December 2007, TOWNSEND HOUSE advised that the
parents would have to cover the cost of the evaluation and any
legal fees incurred by TOWNSEND HOUSE in connection with
reviewing the request for a reasonable accommodation. The
physician retained by TOWNSEND HOUSE agreed that the child’s
condition was a disability under the Americans with Disabilities
Act (“ADA”), and agreed with the recommendation for the
reasonable accommodation of a dog.

The revised Pet License Agreement the parents received
in May 2008 contained numerous unreasonable restrictions
including requirements that the dog may not exceed a specified
weight of 10 pounds, not remain in the apartment if the child is
not present for an extended period, not be released from its
carrier case in the common areas of the building, not exercise or
play on the family’s private terrace, not be left alone in the
apartment for more than two hours, and not be brought into the
family’s apartment unless the parents obtain liability insurance
of not less than one million dollars for bodily injury or
property damage caused by the dog.

After the parents objected to the restrictions and
provided alternative language for the TOWNSEND HOUSE’s
consideration, TOWNSEND HOUSE agreed in June 2008 to adjust the
weight limit to that of a fully grown dog up to 25 pounds, but
refused to modify or remove any other restrictions.

The child’s parents, MARIA MOSTAJO and MARK SCHEIN,
initially filed an administrative complaint on behalf of their
child with the United States Department of Housing and Urban
Development (“HUD”). After HUD investigated their complaint, it
determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that the
Fair Housing Act was violated. Thereafter, TOWNSEND HOUSE
elected pursuant to the Fair Housing Act to have HUD’s
determination resolved in federal court. In these circumstances,
the Fair Housing Act authorizes the Department of Justice to
commence an action in United States District Court on behalf of
the parents and their child.

The Complaint seeks declaratory, injunctive, and
monetary relief for the parents and the child.
Mr. GARCIA thanked HUD for its role in the investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney ALLISON PENN is in
charge of the case.
08-285 ###

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