Montana federal jury returns $37,000 verdict against landlord who allegedly charged illegal fee

By Mark Iandolo | May 22, 2017

BUTTE, Mont. (Legal Newsline) — The U.S. Department of Justice announced May 17 that a federal jury in Butte, Montana, has returned a $37,343 verdict against a Bozeman, Montana, landlord for charging a $1,000 fee to a tenant with physical and psychiatric disabilities for having a service animal.

“Persons with disabilities have the right to live in and enjoy their communities, just as all families do throughout our nation,” said acting assistant attorney general Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “We commend the jury for recognizing that the Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against persons with disabilities, and we will continue to work to eliminate discriminatory barriers in housing for persons with disabilities.”

According to allegations, Kristen Newman lived in a complex owned and managed by Jaclyn Katz in Bozeman. Katz purportedly charged Newman $1,000 as a deposit to keep her service dog. Newman said she told Katz this was illegal, yet Katz charged her anyway. According to the department, Katz went so far as to threaten tenancy termination.

“Many people with disabilities require the assistance of an animal to carry out major daily activities,” said general deputy assistant secretary Bryan Greene of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Complaints alleging disability discrimination account for the majority of the complaints HUD receives. [Our department] will continue to enforce the law and educate the public on the rights of people with disabilities in housing.”

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