A Court Case Involving Assistance Animals
On December 22, 2021, the United States filed an amended complaint in United States v. Eilman (E.D. Wis.). The complaint, originally filed on December 16, 2021, alleges that defendants Chad Eilman, Jeffrey Eilman, and Christine Neigum – the owners and managers of a Wisconsin apartment complex – discriminated on the basis of disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act by refusing to grant a reasonable accommodation to allow a prospective tenant with a disability to live with her assistance animal at the complex. The case was referred to the Division after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation and issued a charge of discrimination.
Case Open Date:
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Case Name: United States v. Eilman (E.D. Wis.)
Tags: Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968; Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988; Fair Housing Act; FHA; Jeffrey Eilman; Christine Neigum;2:21-cv-01433; Sleepy Hollow Apartments; multi-family apartment; anxiety, depression, schizoaffective disorder; post-traumatic Stress; mental impairments; assistance animal; emotional support; Americans with Disabilities; Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Industry Code: None
Component: Civil Rights Division
Civil Rights – Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Case Documents: Amended Complaint – United States v. Chad Eilman (E.D. Wis.)
According to the facts alleged in this case, the landlord was willing to accept the Plaintiff applicant’s assistance animal … until he met the animal. The animal didn’t present any type of safety issue, but the landlord was concerned about the amount of barking that occurred during the meeting. (The assistance animal at issue was a chihuahua.) Based on his assumption that the dog would be a nuisance to other tenants, the landlord would not permit the applicant to lease the unit, despite the applicant’s assurance that she would enroll the dog in training.
The important takeaway from this case is that a landlord’s perception of an animal is not a valid reason to deny a request for an assistance animal. If the animal violates certain lease or house rules during the tenancy, a landlord can enforce those rules and take appropriate actions as a result. However, rejecting an animal because of a preconceived belief that the animal will be dangerous or annoying is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.