CONCORD – Acting U.S. Attorney John J. Farley announced today that the United States filed a lawsuit on Friday against John J. Flatley d/b/a John J. Flatley Company (Flatley), and a property manager employed by Flatley, for violating the Fair Housing Act. The United States alleges that Flatley discriminated against a tenant by refusing to allow a reasonable accommodation of the tenant’s disability when the tenant sought to have an emotional support dog.
As alleged in the complaint, the tenant leased an apartment in Nashua, which is owned by Flatley. The tenant, who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, had used a dog for emotional support for several years. After the tenant requested permission to have an emotional support animal at the apartment, Flatley and the property manager indicated that they would permit the tenant to have an emotional support animal, but not a dog. The complaint alleges Flatley would not permit tenants to have dogs as emotional support animals.
The tenant filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Upon investigation, HUD determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that the Fair Housing Act had been violated. The tenant 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 Justice Department to commence an action in U.S. District Court on behalf of the tenant. The complaint seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief for the tenant.
“The Fair Housing Act serves to provide equal opportunity to individuals with disabilities by obligating landlords to provide tenants with reasonable accommodations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Farley of the District of New Hampshire. “One commonly-needed accommodation for an individual with a disability is access to an assistance animal, such as a service animal or a support animal. In order to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and prevent discrimination, we will not hesitate to pursue litigation to enforce the Fair Housing Act and other federal civil rights laws.”
“Many individuals with different types of disabilities rely on assistance animals to maintain their independence and fully enjoy the place they call home,” said HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary Jeanine Worden. “HUD applauds today’s action and will continue working with the Justice Department to ensure that housing providers meet their obligation to comply with the reasonable accommodation requirements of the Fair Housing Act.”
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.
The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Raphael Katz.
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.