By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Federal attorneys are recommending that a pair of Laramie landlords who have a “no pets” policy for one of their properties pay a woman $7,000 for refusing to rent her a unit because of her emotional support animal.
Karen and Douglas Miyamoto agreed to a consent decree submitted in U.S. District Court to settle a lawsuit that alleged their refusal to allow the emotional support animal in their unit amounted to discrimination against a person because of disabilities.
U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl has yet to approve the order, which was submitted for consideration Thursday.
According to the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Paulina Gurevich contacted the Miyamotos in June 2020 about a property they had advertised for rent. The advertisement stated that no pets were allowed.
The lawsuit said Gurevich suffers from depression and an anxiety disorder and “experiences crippling panic attacks which substantially limit one or more of her major life activities including her ability to care for herself, interact with others and communicate.”
The lawsuit added Gurevich has “an assistance animal which helps mitigate the symptoms of her disabilities.”
When going to inspect the property with Karen Miyamoto, Gurevich expressed an interest in renting the unit and told Miyamoto about her emotional support animal, a dog.
Miyamoto pointed out the “no pets” policy for the unit and asked Gurevich if the dog was a service animal.
Gurevich told her the dog was an emotional support animal and offered to provide a letter from her healthcare provider “verifying her disability status and disability-related need for an emotional support animal.”
After a discussion about the requirements of state and federal disability laws, the lawsuit said, Miyamoto did not offer Gurevich an application for the rental unit.
Miyamoto, in a later text exchange with Gurevich, said that under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Wyoming law, “owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals.”
Gurevich filed a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in September 2020 and lawsuit against the Miyamotos was filed on Thursday.
The lawsuit said the Miyamotos discriminated in the rental of property to Gurevich because of her disability and refused to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies or practices to “afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling,” which the U.S. Attorney’s office said was a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The consent decree, which has been agreed to by the Miyamotos, orders them to pay Gurevich $7,000. It also orders them not to discriminate in renting property on the basis of disabilities, requires that they take part in, at their own expense, a training program on the Fair Housing Act and that they provide the same training to their employees.
The decree also orders the Miyamotos to post a sign on their properties indicating the properties are available for rent or sale on a nondiscriminatory basis and to adjust future advertising to show they are an “equal housing opportunity provider.”
The decree also imposes record-keeping requirements on the Miyamotos, such as annual compliance reports.
In exchange for the $7,000, Gurevich will be barred from taking any other legal action against the Miyamotos stemming from the incident.