Lawsuit for FHA Violations Proceeds

Read the full decision: Green v. Mercy Housing Inc.

California federal court rules that a tenant’s lawsuit alleging disability discrimination over loss of his assigned parking spot can continue, denying landlord’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit.

An African American man with diabetes (“Tenant”) moved into an apartment managed by a corporation (“Landlord”). Because of his diabetes, the Tenant had limited mobility and could not access certain public portions of the condominium complex. The Landlord assured the Tenant that he would receive an accessible parking spot near his apartment.

After moving into the apartment, the Tenant discovered that the Landlord had leased the parking spaces near his apartment to a day care center. As a result, the Tenant was assigned a space much farther away from his apartment and he had difficulties exiting his vehicle because there was a concrete wall next to the spot. In addition, the Tenant claimed that the Landlord exhibited a racial animus towards him and also accused the Tenant’s son of engaging in criminal conduct on the property when he came to help with his father’s in-home health care.

The Landlord served a 60-day notice of termination on the Tenant for alleged violations of the lease. The Landlord agreed to rescind the notice if the Tenant agreed that his son would not visit him for a year. Facing eviction, the Tenant had no choice but to agree to the Landlord’s terms. The Tenant filed a complaint with the state fair housing department, which caused a representative of the Landlord to berate him.

The Tenant filed a lawsuit against the Landlord, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), and various state civil rights laws. The Landlord filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed some of the allegations but allowed the lawsuit to proceed. The court considered the Tenant’s claims under the FHA. The Tenant alleged that the Landlord failed to accommodate the Tenant’s request for an accessible parking spot. Under the FHA, a failure to accommodate claim must show that the individual suffered from a disability as defined in the FHA, the housing provider knew or should have known about the disability, accommodation of the disability may be necessary to help the individual enjoy the housing, and the housing provider refused to accommodate the disability. The only dispute was whether the Tenant’s request for a parking spot near his apartment was a reasonable accommodation. While the Landlord argued the request was unreasonable because it did not own the spots near his apartment, the court found that the Tenant had adequately plead a claim under the FHA and so allowed this claim to move forward for additional proceedings to evaluate the accommodation request made by the Tenant.

The court allowed some of the state law civil rights claims to proceed but dismissed the ADA claims and some of the other state laws claims. Therefore, the Landlord’s motion to dismiss was granted in part and denied in part.

Green v. Mercy Hous., Inc., No. C 18-04888 WHA, 2018 WL 6704185 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 20, 2018). [This is a citation to a Westlaw document. Westlaw is a subscription, online legal research service. If an official reporter citation should become available for this case, the citation will be updated to reflect this information.]