United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
K. MOON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
housing discrimination case, a mother and son contend that an
apartment complex illegally failed to accommodate the
son's disability when considering his rental application.
The son had a misdemeanor conviction for indecent exposure,
and the apartment complex denied his application allegedly
for that reason alone. The son then asserted his mental
illness caused the act resulting in his conviction. On that
basis and as a proposed reasonable accommodation for his
disability, he and his mother asked the apartment complex to
reconsider the application without reference to the
conviction. The apartment complex declined, and this lawsuit
apartment complex has moved to dismiss. Its theory is that
the Fair Housing Act's (FHA) protections against
disability discrimination categorically do not apply to those
convicted of crimes. In other words, it posits that a housing
provider may issue blanket denials of housing to those with
convictions, regardless of an applicant's disability
status, and even if the criminal conduct derived from the
applicant's disability. This theory is mistaken. While
the FHA does not always require accommodations for a
conviction allegedly caused by a disability (and it indeed
never requires an accommodation for those convicted of
certain drug crimes), the facts alleged here fall into
neither of those categories. Because the complaint states a
claim for failure to accommodate under the FHA, the motion to
dismiss will be denied.
determine whether a complaint states a legal claim, the Court
must accept as true all well-pled allegations, draw
reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, disregard
the complaint's legal conclusions and arguments, and
ensure the plaintiff offers more than a formulaic recitation
of the elements. See generally Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007); Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).
Annette Simmons lives at Pine Ridge Apartments in Louisa,
Virginia. (Complaint ¶ 1.1). Pine Ridge is managed by
Defendant T.M. Associates Management, Inc.
(“Defendant”). (Id. ¶ 1.2). In
2016, Ms. Simmons requested that her son, co-plaintiff Derek
Simmons, join her apartment as a resident, but Pine Ridge
denied his application in 2016 based on a misdemeanor
conviction earlier that year. (Id. ¶¶
1.2-1.3). The conviction stemmed from an incident where, due
to a mental health condition known as schizoaffective
disorder, Derek had removed his clothing in public.
(Id. ¶¶ 1.3, 3.3). Specifically, during a
period Derek was not on his medication, he undressed himself
in the street and was arrested, charged, and pled guilty to
indecent exposure. (Id. ¶ 3.4).
subsequently received treatment for his condition at a
psychiatric hospital and was released in October 2016.
(Complaint ¶¶ 1.3-1.4). He continues to receive
treatment and “has the ability to live successfully in
a community environment.” (Id. ¶ 1.4). He
has not had any “similar incidents of erratic or
disorderly behavior, ” nor is he likely to.
2017, Annette asked Pine Ridge to consider Derek's
application “without regard to his misdemeanor
conviction, as a reasonable accommodation for Derek's
disability.” (Complaint ¶ 1.5). Pine Ridge refused
and stated that reasonable accommodations were not available
for Derek because he was not a tenant. (Id.
¶¶ 1.6, 3.6). The Simmonses allege that, but for
the conviction, Derek's application would have been
accepted. (Id. ¶ 1.7).
his application was denied, Derek visited his mother's
apartment and commonly stayed overnight there. (Complaint
¶ 1.8). In response, Pine Ridge issued a letter in June
2017 banning Derek from the property. (Id.). The
Simmonses contend that Pine Ridge's refusal to consider
Derek's application without his conviction is unlawful
housing discrimination prohibited by both federal and state
housing discrimination laws. (Id. ¶ 1.9). The
parties have mentioned in passing but not briefed the state
law issues, so this opinion addresses only the FHA.
FHA, enacted pursuant to United States policy to provide for
fair housing throughout the United States, makes it unlawful,
inter alia, to discriminate in the sale or rental of
housing or otherwise to make housing unavailable to a buyer
or renter because of that buyer's or renter's
handicap or the handicap of certain persons associated with
the buyer or renter.” Bryant Woods Inn, Inc. v.
Howard Cty., Md., 124 F.3d 597, 602-03 (4th Cir. 1997)
(citing 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, 3604(f)). The statute
requires an accommodation for covered persons if the
accommodation “is (1) reasonable and (2) necessary (3)
to afford handicapped persons equal opportunity to use and
enjoy housing.” Id. at 603. A reasonable
accommodation does not require “changes, adjustments,
or modifications to existing programs that would be
substantial, or that would constitute fundamental alterations
in the nature of the program.” Id. at 604. The
“necessary” element “has attributes of a
causation requirement; it demands demonstration of a direct
linkage between the proposed accommodation and the
‘equal opportunity' to be provided.”
Id. The accommodation must provide “direct
amelioration of a disability's effect.”
Asserted Grounds for Housing Denial and Refusal to
argues that Derek's conviction insulates it from any
housing discrimination claim as a ...