By Keri Brenner, Marin Independent Journal
An administrative complaint filed with a federal agency by a disabled Marin woman against managers of a Greenbrae apartment complex was settled in her favor, parties in the matter announced this week.
Stacy Kitchin, a former resident of the Bon Air Apartments, was awarded $31,000 last month in the settlement, filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair housing office. Also, San Rafael-based Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California was awarded $41,000 in the settlement to offset the organization’s “frustration of mission” due to numerous hours of staff time spent assisting Kitchin in the complaint.
Kitchin’s complaint of discrimination was filed against Schultz Investment Co., Greenbrae Management Inc., Belardo Co., L.P. and Thomas Allhoff, vice president of Schultz. It alleged that even though she was granted a “reasonable accommodation” in 2010 to have her service dog Zeus stay with her because of her disability, she was harassed by repeated notices of lease violations concerning the dog. That included, she said, false reports that the dog had attacked and bitten maintenance workers.
“I want everyone to know that people with disabilities deserve the same opportunities to enjoy their living space as others, and that landlords need to consider reasonable accommodation requests,” said Kitchin, who lived at Bon Air for more than 15 years until mid-January, when she was forced to move out. She has since found other housing in Marin, said Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates.
Allhoff, who was specifically mentioned by Kitchin as issuing repeated “threats to my tenancy,” did not return calls for comment on Wednesday.
As part of the settlement’s “conciliation agreement,” the Greenbrae landlords will have to implement a “reasonable accommodation and reasonable modification policy consistent with the Fair Housing Act,” and revise their leases accordingly. They must also send a letter to tenants notifying them of the new policy and take fair housing training.
Kitchin contacted Fair Housing Advocates in 2014 after receiving a “three-day notice to cure or quit,” related to removing Zeus. Management rescinded the notice after Fair Housing Advocates staff requested it, but the agency continued to get complaints from people with disabilities at the complex in 2014 and 2015, according to Fair Housing Advocates’ attorney, Casey Epp.
HUD issued a statement that landlords or other housing providers are prohibited “from denying or limiting housing opportunities to persons with disabilities or imposing different rental terms and conditions. This includes refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices for people with disabilities.”
Peattie said the nature of Kitchin’s disability was not available, and that housing providers are not allowed to make specific inquiries to that effect.
According to the HUD statement, “(Zeus) alerts (Kitchin) when she is experiencing physiological changes and helps to ameliorate many of her disability-related symptoms.”