Stacey Johnson and Mitchell Miller v. Scott Young

04/02/2018
Document Text Content: 

PREDETERMINATION SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

 

CP# 01-18-71493

HUD# 07-18-8285-8

 

PARTIES TO THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

 

RESPONDENTS

 

SCOTT A. YOUNG

P.O. Box 531

Shenandoah, Iowa 51601

 

DE LYNDA REES

P.O. Box 531

Shenandoah, Iowa 51601

 

 

COMPLAINANTS

 

STACEY JOHNSON

 

and

 

 MITCHELL MILLER

 

 

 

and

 

IOWA CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION

400 East 14th Street

Des Moines, Iowa 50319

 

 

 

 

Description of the Parties:   Complainants allege discrimination in the area of housing on the basis of disability.  Complainants allege Respondents illegally charged them a $100 non-refundable pet deposit and $50 monthly pet fee for their assistance animal.  Complainants further allege that after Respondents agreed to refund the pet deposit and waive the monthly pet fee as a reasonable accommodation, they subsequently raised their rent by $100 per month.  Complainants allege Respondents increased their rent in retaliation for exercising their right to request a reasonable accommodation for Complainant Johnson’s disability.  Respondents own or manage the subject property, a duplex community, known as Green Acres, located at 5 Roban Drive, Shenandoah, Iowa 51601.

 

Terms of Settlement: A complaint having been filed by Complainants against Respondents with the Commission under Iowa Code Chapter 216 and there having been a preliminary inquiry, the parties do hereby agree and settle the above-captioned matter in the following extent and manner:

 

Acknowledgment of Fair Housing Laws

 

1.Respondents agree there shall be no discrimination, harassment, or retaliation of any kind against Complainants or any other person for filing a charge under the “Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965” (ICRA); or because of giving testimony or assistance, or participating in any manner in any investigation, proceeding or hearing under the ICRA; or because of lawful opposition to any practice forbidden by the ICRA.  Iowa Code § 216.11(2).

 

2.Respondents acknowledge the ICRA makes it unlawful to discriminate in the terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with the dwelling because of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, or familial status.  Iowa Code § 216.8(1)(b).

 

3.Respondents acknowledge the ICRA makes it unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, on account of the person having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of the person having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by section 216.8, 216.8A, or 216.15A. Iowa Code § 216.11(A).

Respondents acknowledge the FHA makes it unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of his having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by section 3603, 3604, 3605, or 3606 of this title.  42 U.S.C. 3617.

4.Respondents acknowledge the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and ICRA make it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when the accommodations are necessary to afford the person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling and to the extent that the accommodation does not cause undue financial or administrative burden or fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s operations. 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(b) (§ 804(f)(3)(b) of the Fair Housing Act); Iowa Code § 216.8A(3)(c)(2).

 

5.Respondents acknowledge the FHA and ICRA make it unlawful to discriminate against another person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with the dwelling because of a disability.  42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(2)(a) (§ 804(f)(2)(a) of the Fair Housing Act); Iowa Code § 216.8A(3)(b)(1).

 

6.Respondents acknowledge their obligation under the FHA and ICRA to allow assistance animals as a reasonable accommodation when necessary to permit an individual with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.  

 

Respondents acknowledge assistance animals are often referred to as service animals, emotional support animals, therapy animals, companion animals or support animals. Under the FHA and ICRA, an assistance animal is “not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support.” Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-Funded Programs, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01, April 25, 2013, at 2.

 

Respondents acknowledge, after receiving a request, housing providers must consider the following:

 

(1)Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability (a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities)?

(2)Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal?  (afford a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy the dwelling).

 

Respondents understand a request for accommodation can be denied if the accommodation would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or if it would fundamentally alter the essential nature of the housing provider's services.  “The determination of undue financial and administrative burden must be made on a case-by-case basis involving various factors, such as the cost of the requested accommodation, the financial resources of the provider, the benefits that the accommodation would provide to the requester, and the availability of alternative accommodations that would effectively meet the requester's disability-related needs.” Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department  of Justice, Reasonable Accommodations Under The Fair Housing Act, May 17, 2004, at 7.

 

Respondents further acknowledge, “The request may also be denied if: (1) the specific assistance animal in question poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, or (2) the specific assistance animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation. Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal. A determination that an assistance animal poses a direct threat of harm to others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others must be based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal's actual conduct — not on mere speculation or fear about the types of harm or damage an animal may cause and not on evidence about harm or damage that other animals have caused. Conditions and restrictions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals.” FHEO-2013-01 at 3.

Respondents acknowledge they will consider each tenant or prospective tenant’s situation and accommodation request individually to determine if the requested accommodation is reasonable.  The parties acknowledge that if the disability is not known or obvious, Respondents may make a reasonable inquiry and request documentation from a health care provider that verifies the tenant/prospective tenant’s disability, without seeking or collecting information regarding the nature of the disability.  In addition, Respondents may make reasonable inquiry and request documentation from a health care provider that verifies the tenant or prospective tenant’s need for the accommodation, i.e., the relationship between the person’s disability and the need for the requested accommodation.  

 

Respondents understand assistance animals cannot be subjected to monthly pet fees since they are not considered pets under the FHA and ICRA. Housing providers cannot require special tags, equipment, certification or special identification of assistance animals.

 

Voluntary and Full Settlement

 

7.The parties acknowledge this Predetermination Settlement Agreement is a voluntary and full settlement of the disputed complaint.  The parties affirm they have read and fully understand the terms set forth herein.  No party has been coerced, intimidated, threatened or in any way forced to become a party to this Agreement.

 

8.The parties enter into this Agreement in a good faith effort to amicably resolve existing disputes.  The execution of this Agreement is not an admission of any wrongdoing or violation of law.  Nor is the execution of this Agreement an admission by Complainants that any claims asserted in their complaint are not fully meritorious.

 

9.The parties agree the execution of this Agreement may be accomplished by separate counterpart executions of this Agreement.  The parties agree the original executed signature pages will be attached to the body of this Agreement to constitute one document.

 

10.Respondents agree the Commission may review compliance with this Agreement.  And as part of such review, Respondents agree the Commission may examine witnesses, collect documents, or require written reports, all of which will be conducted in a reasonable manner by the Commission.   

 

Disclosure

 

11.Because, pursuant to Iowa Code §216.15A(2)(d), the Commission has not determined that disclosure is not necessary to further the purposes of  the ICRA relating to unfair or discriminatory practices in housing or real estate, this Agreement is a public record and subject to public disclosure in accordance with Iowa’s Public Records Law, Iowa Code Chapter 22.  See Iowa Code §22.13.  

 

Release

 

12.Complainants hereby waive, release, and covenant not to sue Respondents with respect to any matters which were, or might have been alleged as charges filed with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Department of Housing and Urban Development, or any other anti-discrimination agency, subject to performance by Respondents of the promises and representations contained herein. Complainants agree any complaint filed with any other anti-discrimination agency, including the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Department of Housing and Urban Development, which involves the issues in this complaint, shall be closed as Satisfactorily Adjusted.

 

Fair Housing Poster

 

13.Within thirty (30) of the execution of this Settlement Agreement, Respondents agree to place the Fair Housing Poster (English and Spanish) at the subject property, in a conspicuous location easily viewable to tenants and prospective tenants. The Fair Housing Posters can be obtained online at:

https://icrc.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/2015/2015FairHousingPosterGeneral.pdf

https://icrc.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/2015/2015FHPosterGeneralSpanish.pdf

Respondents agree to send documentation to the Commission verifying the fair housing posters have been posted within ten (10) days of displaying the posters.

 

Relief for Complainants

 

14.Respondents agree to release Complainants from the terms of their Lease Agreement effective March 5, 2018 without penalty or fees and agree to waive a $2,525.00 balance they allege Complainants owe them for back rent and fees.  Respondents agree to consider Complainants’ departure as a mutually agreed-upon termination of tenancy.  Complainants agree they will not pursue recovery of their security deposit. 

Complainants agree to vacate their rental unit on or before 2 PM on March 5, 2018.  Complainants will meet with Respondents on March 5, 2018, at 2 PM to conduct a move out inspection of their rental unit during which Complainants (and their representative) may be present.  The purpose of the inspection will be to confirm that Complainants have returned the rental unit in the same condition as when Complainants moved in, normal wear and tear excepted. 

Respondents agree to follow the provisions of Iowa Code §562A regarding any alleged cleaning or damage to the rental unit.  On or before March 15, 2018, Respondents agree to submit a written report to the Commission, detailing any charges assessed to Complainants for cleaning or damage.   

 

 

15.Complainants and Respondents mutually agree that neither Complainants, Respondents nor any employee, agent, or representative of Complainants or Respondents will at any time after February 23, 2018, on behalf of such party, through any medium, either orally or in writing, including, but not limited to, electronic mail, television or radio, computer networks or Internet bulletin boards, blogs, social media, such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, or any other form of communication, disparage, or damage the reputation of Complainants or Respondents. 

Reporting and Record-Keeping

 

16.Respondents shall forward to the Commission objective evidence verifying the fair housing posters have been posted within ten (10) days of displaying the posters, as evidence of compliance with Term 13 of this Agreement.

 

17.On or before March 15, 2018, Respondents agree to submit a written report to the Commission, detailing any charges assessed to Complainants for cleaning or damage, as evidence of compliance with Term 14 of this Agreement.

  

All required documentation of compliance must be submitted via email or U.S. Mail to:

 

Sylvia Owens. Iowa Civil Rights Commission

Grimes State Office Building

400 East 14th Street,

Des Moines, Iowa 50319

sylvia.owens@iowa.gov 

Telephone: 515-281-6434

 

 

_______________________________________________________________

Scott A. Young, RESPONDENTDate

 

 

_______________________________________________________________

De Lynda Rees, RESPONDENTDate

 

 

________________________________________________________________

Stacey Johnson, COMPLAINANTDate

 

 

________________________________________________________________

Mitchell Miller, COMPLAINANTDate

 

 

________________________________________________________________

Kristin H. Johnson, DIRECTOR         Date

IOWA CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION