Thursday, May 05, 2005

EDNY on Switching Apartments as Accommodation Under FHAA

In Bentley v. Peace and Quiet Realty 2 LLC, 2005 WL 1023279 (E.D.N.Y., May 3, 2005) (sorry, I can't find a free version), Judge Garaufis of the Eastern District rejected the defendant's motion to dismiss in an interesting Fair Housing Act accommodations case. The plaintiff lives on the top floor of a walk-up rent-stabilized apartment building in New York. Because of her disability, she finds it extremely difficult to climb stairs. Accordingly, she requested that the landlord accommodate her disability by permitting her to move to a vacant first-floor apartment while paying the same rent she was currently paying ($820.64 per month) rather than the maximum rent the landlord could charge for the vacant apartment under the rent stabilization law ($1,000.30 per month). The landlord moved to dismiss on two basic grounds: (1) that the requirement that tenants pay the maximum rent permitted by law is a disability-neutral policy; and (2) that the requested accommodation was geared at the plaintiff's poverty rather than her disability. The district court rejected the first argument as inconsistent with the Supreme Court's decision in US Airways v. Barnett, which held that reasonable accommodations could trump "disability-neutral" policies. And it rejected the second argument on the ground that moving to a lower floor was directly targeted to accommodate the plaintiff's disability.


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