The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic Wins Emotional Support Animal Case

The Fair Housing Legal Clinic has reached a $15,000 settlement on behalf of a Chicago woman who was denied the right to have her dog, an emotional support animal, live in her apartment.  The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) ruled the action violated the tenant’s rights under the federal Fair Housing Act.

The case, which was first filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development  in December 2007, took years to move through the administrative investigation process due in major part to lack of precedential case law in existence initially. During that time, numerous students at the Clinic worked on the case, said A.J. Young, an attorney at the Clinic.

“It took several administrative appeals, but the resolution is that the management company cannot deny a reasonable accommodation—in this case the right to a dog used as a support animal,” she said.

The young woman who rented the Streeterville area apartment followed all the rules, Young said. She made a request to the building management, filing the proper forms and including a doctor’s letter.  However, she never got a response and went ahead with obtaining a support animal.  Sometime later, she received a letter stating dogs were not allowed in the building and was later served with a 10-day notice of eviction.

She wanted to live in the Streeterville area because the apartment was convenient for her to continue her studies at Northwestern University Law School. Her relocation took her farther away from the law school.

Shortly after the Clinic filed its complaint, the management firm implemented policy changes, and the Clinic received a finding of “substantial evidence” of discrimination from IDHR. Shortly thereafter, the management firm entered into settlement discussions in earnest.

Clinic attorney A.J. Young applauded students for their work on the case. “I want to congratulate Daissy Dominguez and Suman Bandi for negotiating a great settlement in a disability case in the spring semester!”

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