HUD Charges Puerto Rico Property Owners and Real Estate Agent with Discriminating Against Person with Disabilities
|HUD No. 22-087
HUD Public Affairs
May 5, 2022
HUD CHARGES PUERTO RICO PROPERTY OWNERS AND REAL ESTATE AGENT WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST PERSON WITH DISABILITIES
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging Josefina Amparo De La Fuente-Mundo, Alicia De La Fuente-Mundo, and Rosalia De La Fuente-Mundo, owners and manager of an apartment building in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Maria Trini Menendez, the real estate agent hired to rent a unit in the building, with housing discrimination for allegedly refusing to rent to a person with disabilities because she uses a service animal. Read HUD’s Charge.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on disability. This includes refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when necessary to allow a person with disabilities to use and enjoy their housing. Reasonable accommodations include a waiver of a “no pet” policy for service animals.
“Service animals allow people with disabilities to perform life’s daily activities and maintain their independence,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD Principal Assistant Deputy Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Today’s action demonstrates HUD’s ongoing commitment to take appropriate action when housing providers fail to comply with the Fair Housing Act.”
“Housing providers are required to allow people with disabilities the use of service animals that they need to fully enjoy their housing,” said Damon Smith, HUD General Counsel. “HUD is committed to vigorously enforcing the Fair Housing Act to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities.”
HUD’s Charge of Discrimination alleges that the complainant, who is legally blind, attempted to rent a unit at the subject property for herself and her partner. During the tour of the property, the complainant told Ms. Menendez of her disability and of her need for a guide dog as a service animal. In response, Ms. Menendez told the complainant that she could not have a pet in the unit because the owners have a no pet policy at the subject property. According to the Charge, the complainant explained that refusing to permit a service animal could be grounds for a lawsuit and suggested that Ms. Menendez speak to the owner of the property. When Ms. Menendez raised the issue with Josefina De La Fuente-Mundo, Ms. De La Fuente-Mundo reiterated that pets are not permitted in the building. Ms. Menendez relayed this to the complainant and suggested other potential rentals.
A United States Administrative Law Judge will hear HUD’s Charge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court. If an administrative law judge finds, after a hearing, that discrimination has occurred, the judge may award damages to the complainant for the harm caused by the discrimination. The judge may also order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, to deter further discrimination, as well as payment of attorney’s fees. In addition, the judge may impose civil penalties to vindicate the public interest. If the matter is decided in federal court, the judge may also award punitive damages to the complainant.
People who believe they are the victims of housing discrimination should contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice) 800-927-9275 (TTY). Additional information is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing. Materials and assistance are available for persons with limited English proficiency. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may contact the Department using the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.