Ed Murray, Mayor
SUBJECT: Doormat for disability proves costly for Seattle apartment owner
10/25/2005 12:00:00 PM
Elliott Bronstein (206) 684-4507
Doormat for disability proves costly for Seattle apartment owner
A Seattle apartment owner's refusal to negotiate with his disabled tenant has resulted in a costly settlement facilitated by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR).
The case began when a new manager ordered her tenants to remove all doormats and rugs from the hallways of the complex to facilitate cleaning. One tenant wrote a letter to the owner requesting an accommodation for her disability. She was very prone to losing her balance, and her $20 doormat greatly reduced the risk of her falling.
The owner did not respond to the letter, and instead forwarded it to the manager. When the manager failed to respond to the resident’s request for an accommodation, the resident sent a second letter directly to the manager a week later, requesting a meeting with her to discuss her request.
"I have no time to stop and discuss such matters at this time," the manager responded, and several days later, the manager threw away the resident’s doormat.
The resident filed a fair housing charge with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, alleging the owner's failure to make a reasonable accommodation for her disability. SOCR's investigation confirmed that neither the manager nor the owner had made any attempt to discuss the resident's request for an accommodation with her.
"Fair housing law requires management to meet with a resident to discuss a request for a disability accommodation," said Angela Dawson-Milton, SOCR's enforcement manager. "The parties may disagree on what that looks like, but they do have to sit down together at the table."
The owner eventually agreed to settle the case with a payment to the resident of $1,000, which included the resident's moving and medical costs related to management’s failure to accommodate her disability.
The moral of the story? Better to arrange a meeting with your disabled tenant before going to the mat over a $20 doormat.
For more information about illegal discrimination, call the Seattle Office for Civil Rights at 206-684-4500 (TTY 206-684-4503), or find SOCR on the Web at www.seattle.gov/civilrights.
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