Ways to approach lease disputes

Housing co-ops and condominiums are attractive to many Massachusetts tenants for their convenience, shared approach to common maintenance and repair issues, and affordability compared to more traditional housing alternatives. 

However, that shared ownership can also give way to disputes, as a recent pet ownership dispute illustrates. According to the story, the co-op board at issue had maintained a no-pets policy for 84 years, but several of the residents had applied for exceptions on the ground of medical necessity. 

As readers may know, pets may also help people who suffer from anxiety, depression, chronic pain or other afflictions, in addition to the more commonly recognized use of seeing eye dogs. In fact, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recognizes that pets may be a necessary disability accommodation under the Fair Housing Act.

In this case, the residents filed complaints with HUD, citing disability discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. HUD officials agreed with the residents and referred the case to attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice, who filed suit against the co-op board in federal court. Although the case is pending, a happy ending may yet be in store for the residents.

The story is a good reminder of the importance of reviewing lease or real estate transactional documents thoroughly before entering into potentially unfavorable terms. In that regard, many prospective residential or commercial leaseholders feel more confident in having an experienced real estate attorney review their documents. An attorney can look for inconsistencies and potential problem areas. If a dispute arises in an existing lease, an attorney may also have insight into potential legal strategies, such as a claim under the Fair Housing Act.

Source: The New York Times, “Fighting a No-Pets Eviction With Doctors’ Notes and a Federal Suit,” Matt A.V. Chaban, July 28, 2014