TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that two different housing complexes in South Jersey have agreed to pay thousands of dollars, change their policies, and provide their staff with anti-discrimination training, in settlement agreements that resolve allegations they unlawfully denied requests from residents with disabilities to keep doctor-prescribed emotional support animals.
In one settlement, property owner Valley Gardens, LLC and property manager Pearce-Jannarone Real Estate agreed to pay a tenant $6,125 to resolve allegations they violated the state Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by denying her request to keep a Yorkshire terrier puppy as an emotional support animal. They cited a “no pets” policy, although the nine-year resident of the building had a prescription from her doctor for an emotional support animal.
In the other case, the Newport Gardens Condo Association of Ventnor and Thompson Realty Company agreed to pay a resident with a disability a total of $4,000 to resolve allegations they violated the LAD by refusing the resident’s May 2018 request to keep two emotional support animals – a Chihuahua and a cat – consistent with a note from her doctor. Newport Gardens instead enforced its policy allowing unit owners to keep two pets but renters to keep only one, and ordered one pet removed from the premises.
“Property owners, managers, condo associations and others involved with New Jersey’s housing industry need to comply with our anti-discrimination laws,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Their obligations include reasonably accommodating tenants with disabilities, which may include allowing tenants to keep support animals that do not otherwise satisfy pet policies.”
“Under the LAD, even housing providers with no-pet policies are required to allow a tenant or home-owner with a disability to keep an emotional support animal if the person’s treating doctor or mental health professional certifies that the animal is necessary to provide the person an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling,” said Division on Civil Rights Director Rachel Wainer Apter. “The only exception is if the housing provider can show that allowing the animal would be an undue burden on its operations. Yet we see too many cases where housing providers simply dismiss these types of requests out of hand, citing no-pet policies. That violates the law.”
Valley Gardens owns the 16-unit apartment complex known as Valley Garden Apartments. The complex is managed by Pearce-Jannarone, which has an office on site.
During DCR’s investigation, Valley Gardens and Pearce-Jannarone asserted that they could not accommodate the complainant’s request to keep an emotional support animal because Valley Garden Apartments has “very little land” available to exercise pets, and that “most tenants are opposed to living so closely to pets because they fear foul odors, barking, other noises, allergies and parasites.” But they provided no evidence to support these assertions.
In the case of Newport Gardens, the complainant provided her landlord with a letter from her doctor that described her two pets as integral to her health. The landlord forwarded the doctor’s letter to the Newport Gardens condo association, which rejected the request to accommodate the complainant’s disability by relaxing its one-pet-per-renter policy.
Under their respective settlements, both Valley Gardens and Newport Gardens have agreed to let the complainants keep their emotional support animals. The respondents in both cases have also agreed to require their supervisors, managers and other employees to undergo training in the LAD.
Investigator Hana Oresky and Conciliator Benn Meistrich handled the Valley Gardens matter on behalf of DCR. Investigator Darren Bloom and Conciliator Mark McNierney handled the Newport Gardens matter on behalf of the Division.
To view a DCR Fact Sheet on emotional support animals, visit: www.nj.gov/oag/dcr/downloads/fact-ESA.pdf.
Anyone who believes his or her rights under the Law Against Discrimination have been violated can file a complaint within 180 days of the incident with DCR by visiting www.njcivilrights.gov, or by calling DCR at (973) 648-2700.