Christmas came early to two people who had filed lawsuits against the Irvine Co. and its apartment affiliate earlier this year alleging discrimination against them because they needed emotional-support animals. California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced earlier this month that it had settled the suits for $175,000, which is how much money Irvine Co. Don Bren made in the time it took you to read this story so far.
From their press release:
The lawsuits filed in Orange County Superior Court on behalf of two residents, and the administrative complaints filed on behalf of six additional residents, alleged the companies failed to accommodate tenants with mental health disabilities by taking steps to discourage tenants from keeping emotional support animals as a reasonable accommodation for their disabilities. The companies charged pet deposits and pet rent, imposed breed and size restrictions for legitimate support animals, and failed to engage in an interactive process to verify that tenants had genuine disabilities. The firms also lacked a uniform reasonable accommodation policy and failed to train their leasing professionals at their apartment communities about fair housing responsibilities toward people with disabilities. As a result, some tenants were evicted from their apartments or had their lease offers revoked. Others were forced to pay additional rent.
The Irvine Co. and Irvine Apartment Communities also have to pay plaintiffs legal fees, "provide training to employees, and hire a Compliance Manager to review requests for reasonable accommodation." BOOM.
“We are pleased that The Irvine Co. cooperated with us to achieve this settlement, which compensates the plaintiffs and complainants for the harm they suffered and contains equitable relief designed to ensure that all tenants and applicants with disabilities will receive equal housing opportunities, including reasonable accommodations, as required by law,” DFEH director Kevin Kish told the press release.
Bren's companies did score one win: they can request "reliable" third-party verification systems from potential tenants who claim they need emotional-support animals, so that the landlord can avert incidents like this:
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Anyhoo, yay for animals!