Fair Housing

Wells v. Rhodes, et al., 928 F.Supp. 2d 920 (S.D. Ohio 2013) – Harassment/Intimidation

Plaintiffs William and Priscilla Wells and their children, who are all African-American, brought this action to recover damages arising from the discovery of a charred cross on the lawn of their home in a rural area of Marengo, Ohio, on the morning of March 3, 2011. The night before, after drinking beer at D.G.’s house, D.G. and Brandon Rhodes, both of whom are white, constructed a five-foot-tall wooden cross; wrote “KKK Will Make U PAY” and the word “NIGGER” in permanent marker on the cross; and drove to plaintiffs’ home, where they lit the cross on fire before fleeing. D.G., who was 16 years of age at the time and attended high school with three of the plaintiffs, was heard taking credit for the cross burning. Rhodes, who graduated from the same high school two years earlier, admitted his involvement shortly after the incident.

Farley v. Smith, et al., (2:16-cv-621, S.D. Ohio 2016) – Emotional Support Animal

Plaintiff Timothy Farley, is a person with disabilities as defined under the Fair Housing Act. His psychiatrist recommended Mr. Farley get a comfort animal, a/k/a emotional support animal, to mitigate the symptoms of his disabilities. Due to the nature of Mr. Farley’s disabilities, his treating physician’s recommendation was that Mr. Farley get a larger dog – 35-50 pounds. Following his medical provider’s advice, Mr. Farley went to the Franklin County Dog Shelter in Columbus, Ohio and picked out a pit bull that he wanted to adopt. However, Mr. Farley could not complete the adoption process because Defendant Kim Smith, in her capacity as property manager for Defendant Shepherd Management, LTD., refused to approve Mr. Farley’s ESA, citing a rule of the apartment complex which limited the size and/or weight of pets housed on the property. Despite the intervention of a supportive housing advocacy agency, which provided Defendants with a reasonable accommodation request supported by a third party medical provider, Defendants persisted in their refusal to accommodate Mr. Farley’s request and allow him an ESA in excess of the property’s size/weight restrictions.

Ragland v. EZ Home Solutions Group, LLC, et al., (2:16-cv-749, S.D. Ohio 2016) – Reasonable Accommodation Request, Medical Disabilities

Plaintiff Rita Ragland filed this action against EZ Home Solutions Group, LLC and Christopher Martin because Martin denied Ms. Ragland’s reasonable accommodation request to be released early from her rental lease agreement due to medical disabilities. Ms. Ragland is a person with disabilities as defined under the Fair Housing Amendments Act. Despite being provided with third-party verification of Ms. Ragland’s medical need for new housing, Martin and his company steadfastly refused to grant her accommodation request in accordance with FHAA guidelines and requirements.

In approximately May, 2016 Ms. Ragland’s mental health care providers determined that her mental illness symptoms were escalating as a result of living in a high crime neighborhood, including routine, frequent gun violence in the immediate vicinity of the Property. When Ms. Ragland first shared this information with Mr. Martin regarding this determination by her mental health care providers and requested he release her early from her lease agreement, Mr. Martin immediately denied Plaintiff’s request and responded that Ms. Ragland “should be used to living like this.” Ms. Ragland understood Mr. Martin’s statement to mean that because of her race of African-American and her status of single-mother, she should be accustomed to and accepting of living in daily fear for her life and the lives of her children in a high crime, high gun violence location and that these living conditions were not impacting her diagnosed mental disorders.

On or about June 14, 2016, Ms. Ragland through Attorney Melissa Benson, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC), requested via written correspondence that Mr. Martin provide Ms. Ragland with the reasonable accommodation of releasing her from her rental lease agreement early due to medical necessity. Attorney Benson attached to her June 14, 2016 correspondence to Mr. Martin a June 2, 2016 letter from Ms. Ragland’s mental health care provider: a) confirming Ms. Ragland’s mental health disabilities; b) stating that in their professional opinions “Ms. Ragland’s mental health is being affected by the stress of her current housing situation,” and c) the symptoms of her mental disabilities “have been exacerbated by her current housing conditions.”