Friday, May 15, 2020

Victim of Domestic Violence experiencing PTSD deemed Disabled and entitled to Reasonable Accommodation under ADA


In a recent New York City Civil Court decision, the Court held that disability due to domestic violence can entitle a tenant to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Specifically, in Schuhab HDFC v. Delacruz (Case Number: 64402/17), the court held that the tenant’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from domestic violence should entitle her to a probationary order as reasonable accommodation. Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord is required to provide a handicapped tenant with a reasonable accommodation for the tenant to keep the apartment (42 U.S.C.3605(f(3)(B)). In this case, such reasonable accommodation was in the form of a probationary stay – instead of the tenant getting evicted right away, she was allowed to stay subject to several conditions to prevent any adverse effect to other tenants and guests.

As background, the case was commenced as a holdover landlord-tenant eviction proceeding by Schuab HDFC against the tenant on the grounds that the tenant used or permitted the premises to be used for the distribution and/or sale of controlled substances. The tenant’s defense was that she neither knew of or acquiesced to the illegal activity. She also requested the court grant her a reasonable accommodation in the form of a probationary stay in the premises as a result of her disability from being a victim of domestic violence.

The Court’s decision narrates and incudes the instances of domestic violence that the tenant suffered from her former partner, the resulting PTSD, and the circumstances which led to her partner’s use of the premises for drug activity as testified by the tenant. While considering the tenant’s testimony and her psychiatrist’s input, the Court agreed in finding that the tenant suffers from PTSD and such disability should entitle her to a probationary stay under the Fair Housing Act.

Consequently, the Court granted the landlord a final judgment of possession against the tenant and other occupants, but also granted the probationary stay in the tenant’s favor as a reasonable accommodation under the FHA. The tenant is required to exclude her former partner from the premises, avoid and preclude others from participating in drug-related activity in the premises for a period of two (2) years. In the event of a breach, Petitioner may move for the issuance of a judgment of possession and warrant of eviction.

Real estate professionals should be aware of this decision in order to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act and limit exposure to claims of discrimination for refusing to provide reasonable accommodations.





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