A Brooklyn cooperative development is in hot water with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for refusing to allow a disabled veteran to keep an emotional support dog and threatening the veteran and his wife with eviction in retaliation for filing a fair housing complaint.
HUD is charging Trump Village IV, a 1,144-unit Coney Island co-op, and Igor Oberman, the president of the Trump Village IV board of directors, with violating the rights of Eugene Ovsishcher, a combat veteran with a psychiatric disability, and his wife, Galina.
According to HUD, the Trump Village IV (pictured above, source: TrumpVillageRealty.com) has a “no pets” policy, but the Ovsishchers applied for a waiver to that policy in August 2011 so that they could keep an emotional support dog, based on the recommendation of Eugene’s psychiatrist and primary care physician.
Despite providing a copy of the dog’s picture, license and a letter from Ovsishcher’s doctor explain the medical need for the dog in February 2012, the Trump Village sent the couple a letter demanding the removal of the dog, and warning that a failure to comply would result in the termination of the couple’s lease.
And despite being provided with all appropriate documentation, the co-op terminated the couple’s lease and ordered them to “permanently remove themselves and their possessions from their apartment,” because they still had the dog.
Then, the co-op commenced eviction proceedings against the couple in Civil Court of The City of New York in March 2012, but the court denied the request for eviction because the co-op had accepted rent from the couple after the notice of termination was sent to the couple.
In the wake of the eviction proceedings, the Ovsishchers filed a complaint with HUD, accusing the co-op of a Fair Housing Act violation. According to HUD, the Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when a person with a disability requires such an accommodation, including refusing to grant waivers to “no-pet” policies for persons who use assistance or support animals.
After learning of the couple’s complaint to HUD, the co-op allegedly retaliated against them by freezing their place on the wait list for a parking spot in the development’s main parking lot and removing Galina from the co-op’s board of directors.
“For many people with disabilities, support animals are essential to their ability to perform everyday activities that others take for granted,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. “The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to grant reasonable accommodations, and HUD is committed to taking action if they fail to meet that obligation.”
The charges against the co-op will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court, HUD said.