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U.S. Co-Op Housing Issues Law Blog

Condo association insists on documentation for service dog

The Fair Housing Act protects Michigan residents and all other Americans who are members of protected classes from discrimination when they are choosing a home. A recent situation involving a disabled condominium owner brings to light how the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act work together to protect disabled individuals.

The Florida woman owns a dog, named Maui, who originally provided her with emotional support. She eventually decided to train him to be a service animal to help her with her disabilities.

How to show a dog is a good citizen

Michigan residents may understand the challenges that come with having a dog in a co-op. Even if the dog is allowed to be there, it still has to fit in with other animals and humans. The process of deciding whether an animal is a good fit for a co-op may be largely subjective. However, this doesn't necessarily need to be the case.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has come up with a test that can help determine a dog's fitness in a co-op environment. This Canine Good Citizenship test requires a dog to walk on a leash without pulling, sit and stay on command and show a willingness to be handled by a vet. There are currently 75 certified instructors who conduct 2,500 tests annually. While there is no guarantee that a dog with such certification will be approved, it is a good first step.

City may have violated Fair Housing Act

Michigan residents may be aware that it is illegal to discriminate when renting or selling property. On Nov. 28, the Justice Department announced that it was suing the city of Springfield, Illinois, for violating the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit alleges that the city discriminated against people with disabilities in the way it treated group homes for those who are disabled. Specifically, the city allegedly tried to close a home that had three disabled residents.

The city claimed that the home violated a 600-foot spacing rule. However, that rule only applies if the home has five or more disabled people living in it. If it is found that Springfield has violated the Fair Housing Act, it could owe victims compensatory damages in addition to civil penalties.

Student with service dog sues university over ADA violations

Michigan readers may know that some people with disabilities use service animals to help them participate in daily activities. However, keeping a service animal at a living site can raise complications if it exacerbates a roommate's allergies. That is the question currently before a U.S. district court.

A sophomore sorority sister at The Ohio State University's Chi Omega house is suing the school's Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for forcing her to find alternative housing because another sister is allergic to her service dog. According to court documents, the plaintiff suffers from severe panic attacks that inhibit her ability to breathe. Her service dog, Cory, is trained to crawl onto her stomach during an attack, which relieves her symptoms. His presence also helps reduce the frequency of her attacks. However, another resident of the Chi Omega house complained that Cory exacerbates her allergies, asthma and Crohn's disease. To resolve the conflict, the school's ADA coordinator decided to let the sister who first signed the lease agreement stay in the house. That person was the sister with allergies.

Housing discrimination issues

When people begin looking for co-op housing in Michigan their top priority is finding a home that meets the needs of their family. Unfortunately, some of these seekers may encounter discrimination when they try to arrange a viewing or apply to join the community.

Federal and state anti-discrimination laws make it clear that it is illegal for a homeowner, landlord or co-op board to discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, nationality, disability and several other immutable characteristics. While there is some evidence that housing discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity has been on the decline, violations continue to occur.

College student wins in effort to keep service cat in dorm

Michigan residents who are disabled have protections under the federal Fair Housing Act. Under the law, landlords must offer reasonable accommodations to people who are disabled.

This act came into play when a disabled college student sued North Carolina State University in 2016 for discrimination. The student, who lives in student housing, sued after the university refused to allow her emotional support cat to stay in her dorm room. She recently reached a settlement with the university.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of co-ops?

Co-op housing is not for everyone, but it can offer several advantages over renting or private home ownership. Co-ops can be appealing alternatives to living in a house, condo, or apartment. For all their positive points, they can also have downsides.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether co-op housing is the right fit for your lifestyle and needs. When you are choosing whether to live in a housing cooperative, keep in mind these important points as you make your selection.

Sexual harassment is a housing issue

People living in Michigan co-ops generally appreciate living in a well-managed building. They expect to be able to live and conduct their lives free of harassment, fear and intimidation. Some managers or employees of the property, however, may engage in sexual harassment against residents. Such harassment is illegal, and tenants have a right to protection against it.

The problem of sexual harassment in housing is significant. In some cases, landlords, property managers, custodians or security may make unwanted advances toward tenants. Another tactic is to threaten a tenant with eviction or refusal to make necessary repairs unless the tenant agrees to a date or to perform a sex act.

Racial discrimination housing complaints on the rise

Political tensions in the country have led to an increase in accusations of racial discrimination. In this atmosphere, Michigan authorities that manage public housing have a greater chance of receiving complaints from residents or potential renters who feel mistreated because of their race, sex, religion, disability status or national origin.

The National Fair Housing Alliance has documented a rise in hate-oriented incidents. In 2016, it took in 28,181 complaints regarding housing discrimination, which represented about 200 more complaints than the preceding year. According to its records, disability represented the leading reason for discrimination in housing at 55 percent of the complaints. Racial discrimination came in second at 19.6 percent of complaints.

Learn more about the Fair Housing Act

When Michigan residents go to buy or rent a home, apartment, co-op or townhouse, they may be covered under the Fair Housing Act. It states that most landlords and homeowners cannot discriminate based on factors such as race, national origin or familial status. Familial status means that a landlord or property owner generally cannot refuse to deal with someone who is pregnant or has children under the age of 18.

There are several specific acts that landlords and property owners cannot take under the FHA. For instance, it is illegal to deny a dwelling to a protected person or protected group. It would also be illegal to falsely indicate that a home or apartment is not for rent when it actually is. Other illegal actions include changing loan or purchase terms based on a person's nationality or other protected attribute.

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