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Accommodation Complaints from Tenants with Disabilities "Surge" in Santa Monica, City Attorney Says

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

By Jorge Casuso

April 1, 2013 -- From rejecting service animals and caregivers to forcing severely disabled Section 8 tenants to move after jacking up rents, housing discrimination complaints are on the rise in Santa Monica, according to the City Attorneys Office.

The office will hold a new housing seminar on April 29 in recognition of national Fair Housing Month that will focus on reasonable accommodation issues after a "surge of housing discrimination complaints by tenants or housing applicants seeking reasonable accommodations for their disabilities," according to Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades.

Complaints received by Santa Monica's Consumer Protection Unit (CPU) rose from three complaints in Fiscal Year 2011-12 to seven filed over the past five months, Rhoades said. By comparison, the office received only three such complaints in Fiscal Year 2011-12.

Disability-based fair housing complaints and inquiries exceeded discrimnation complaints based on race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, family status, sexual orientation and age, officials said.

"Despite a range of difficult issues, the CPU manages to help the parties resolve most of these disputes without litigation," Rhoades said.

The seven fair housing cases in recent months included the following:

A 91-year-old disabled tenant was refused a lockbox after emergency responders were forced to break into her rented condominium unit twice after she fell. The homeowners association allowed the box after the CPU intervened.

A tenant's request for an apartment building manager to waive the no-pet policy and pet deposit requirement to allow a service animal for a disabled child was refused. The owner was persauded to allow the pet and return the deposit after a letter from the CPU.

An tenant's request for an emotional support animal was allowed without the tenant needing "to name the disability or get into the specifics of how the animal would help."

More than 20 tenants, some severely disabled, were "subject to unaffordable rent increases" and "pressured by the owner to move" from Section 8 deed-restrited units to other buildings with units restricted to lower rents. The housing provider was persuaded to grant reasonable accommodation requests to "delay the changes until the tenants left the units of their own accord."

A tenant with severe disabilities was refused a live-in-caregiver and threatened with eviction. The owner was persuaded to respond to a caregiver request "within a reasonable timeframe" or waive his right to object to the caregiver.

A prospective tenant was allowed to move into a no-pets building with two emotional support animals after the CPU informed the landlord of her options.

A tenant diagnosed with a serious respiratory disability was not allowed to move into a vancated smoke-free unit in her building after complianing that the second-hand smoke from the tenants in the units on two sides of her apartment was exacerbating her respiratory disability. The tenant was granted her request after the CPU intervened.

The Consumer Protection Unit also resolved two housing discrimination matters involving family and religion. In one case, a Jewish family was denied a request to schedule a viewing for a vacant apartment on evenings when the family's religion allowed such trips and not during open houses when they were forfidden to travel.

In another, children were banned from playing in the courtyard of a large apartment building. The policy wasc hanged after the CPU argued that it discriminated against children and was implemented to ban them from the courtyard.

The Consumer Protection Unit’s seminar on fair housing and reasonable accommodations will be heald April 29 from noon to 1:30 pm at the Santa Monica Main Library in its multi-purpose room on the second floor. Participants are invited to bring a brownbag lunch. Please visit the Consumer Protection Unit’s website at to register for the workshop or contact them at 310-458-8336.

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