A landlord in Laramie, Wyoming is being fined $7,000 after they denied a woman because of her emotional support dog. Karen and Douglas Miyamoto have a “no pets” rule on their rental properties. So, when Paulina Gurevich mentioned her emotional support dog, they were hesitant to rent to her.
The landlords decided they wouldn’t let Gurevich submit a rental application because of her support dog. Little did they know, that decision was discriminatory and would cost them thousands of dollars. Emotional support dogs don’t have the same rights as service dogs, but being able to live anywhere is the biggest perk for humans who need them.
Renting with an ESA
Emotional support dogs cannot go to all public places like service dogs. Many airlines have also stopped flying them for free due to many people pretending their dogs were certified. However, living situations are one benefit of having an emotional support animal. ESAs can usually avoid pet fees and live in places that don’t allow pets, depending on the area’s laws. Yet, many landlords aren’t aware of those rules.
In June 2020, Gurevich was interested in a property that the Miyamotos advertised for rent. Gurevich explained her emotional support dog to them before applying. She experiences crippling panic attacks due to depression and anxiety, so her dog can keep her calm. She described the pup as an emotional support animal, not a service dog.
When Karen Miyamoto pointed out the “no pets” policy, Gurevich offered to provide proof of her condition and need for a support dog from a healthcare provider. Gurevich discussed the disability laws with the landlords, but they still didn’t allow her to apply to rent the unit. They claimed that landlords aren’t required to allow emotional support dogs in Wyoming.
Gurevich filed a complaint to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development a few months after the incident. Then, she filed a lawsuit.
Landlords Face Hefty Fine
The U.S. Attorney’s office said the Miyamotos’ actions violated the Fair Housing Act. They discriminated against Gurevich by not making accommodations for her disability.
The U.S. District Judge hasn’t approved the order yet, but the Miyamotos have already agreed to the consent decree, which orders them to pay $7,000 to Gurevich. It also states that they cannot discriminate against anyone with a disability when renting in the future.
They must attend a training program about the Fair Housing Act and require all their employees to have the same training. Once the fine is paid, Gurevich cannot take any other legal action against the landlords for this incident.
It might seem like Gurevich went to great lengths to get the landlords fined, but without doing so, more people like her could’ve been denied housing. This lawsuit not only brings justice to her and her support dog but also to anyone else facing a similar situation.