PHA May Have Discriminated Against Resident Because of Seizure Disorder
Facts: A resident asked her PHA for permission to have her son act as a live-in aide. Her doctor recommended in writing that the PHA allow the live-in aide to provide medical care associated with her seizure disorder.
Although the resident didn't receive formal approval from the PHA, her son moved in with her anyway. He was never screened by the PHA or authorized to reside at the site.
The PHA sent the resident a notice that she wasn't authorized to sublet her unit or have guests for an extended period of time. The notice accused the resident of having “guests in residence” for approximately three to four weeks, but stated that she could remedy the violation by excluding those guests from her unit.
In a letter, the resident responded that her son had stayed with her to assist her with “life-threatening medical conditions,” and hadn't been there for the three to four weeks alleged in the notice. She also stated that a reasonable accommodation form would provide the information necessary to maintain her tenancy.
The PHA evicted the resident on the basis of having an unauthorized guest. The resident sued the PHA for discriminating against her on the basis of her disability. The PHA asked the court to dismiss the case without a trial.
Ruling: The court refused to dismiss the case against the PHA.
Reasoning: The court stated that the resident could make out a legitimate case that the PHA failed to accommodate her when it frustrated her efforts to get a live-in aide approved; refused to engage in the interactive process or otherwise assist her when she faced eviction; and tainted her residential record by initiating a fraud investigation, recommending termination, preventing a transfer, and maintaining a file that indicated that she had committed fraudulent activity.
The court agreed with the resident that there's a genuine issue of fact as to whether the PHA failed to accommodate her needs and, in so failing, denied her an equal opportunity to use and enjoy her residence.
The court concluded that a jury could determine that, in frustrating the resident's attempts to receive an accommodation, the PHA interfered with her ability to benefit from the voucher program. The court also ruled that, to the extent that the PHA's failure to accommodate the resident contributed to her eventual eviction, a jury reasonably could find that the PHA constructively denied her benefits under the voucher program.
- Strappini v. Housing Authority of Portland, March 2011