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Author Topic: Any legal eagles out there?  (Read 287 times)

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Online BlinkinTopic starter

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Any legal eagles out there?
« on: September 19, 2016, 02:02:55 PM »
Hello Gang.

This may be a little complicated, but I'm seeking advice on a situation regarding the responsibility and/or obligations of a landlord in regards to apartment complexes and potential dangers reported to the landlord, or the complex manager.

I'll begin by saying that I am a resident of North Carolina and both my wife and I are blind with service animals.

I already know about the state's laws regarding attacks on service animals and a person or owner of an animal who causes physical injury to a service animal.

The question revolves around a growing concern on the property about new residents with dogs of significant size who allow their dogs to come very close to us on the property, but who we are not aware of their presence until the dog reacts... Most service animals are bred for as little aggressive tendency as possible, but sadly that isn't a common traits among dogs in general.

We have made the complex manager aware of the concern and have put the concern in writing with a simple request that new residents with dogs be informed that there is a blind couple on the property and to ask them to speak when approaching us. In both instances the request was dismissed immediately.

Today, we came very close to the situation that we have been concerned about and a dog owner got close enough before we were aware of their presence that the dogs almost came into contact. It was a matter of feet and we were visble for at least several dozen yards. The other dog snarled and barked, which how we knew that the dog was so close.

My question is, as we have requested that a simple action be taken to make the resident aware that we are on the property and cannot see them approach, does the property owner bear any responsibility if a dog attack takes place, either against one of our dogs, or against one of us. Is there a legal recourse that might prompt the property owner to act upon our request? We don't see this as an unreasonable accomidation or burdensome on the management staff, but when another dog owner refuses to speak even when confronted, what can we do?

Thanks for your time,
Blinkin

Offline Orange Marmalade

Re: Any legal eagles out there?
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2016, 02:36:20 PM »
I am not a lawyer.

However, this strikes me as falling into 'reasonable accommodations' provided by the law. Recent changes (additional dogs at the complex) have caused a potential danger for you and your service animals, and it seems as if you have requested reasonable accommodations be made to fix the worsening situation.

How many new residents with dogs are there? The easiest, but maybe not best, solution may be to wait for the next occurrence to happen, then explain it to the dog owner. Ask them to pass it on to the other dog owners of the apartment complex as well. It could be that after another encounter or two your situation is fixed. A lot of people don't know how to interact with service dogs and might simply just need a quick (friendly) education.

But if you'd prefer to deal with your landlord and how they are ignoring you, the only option may be an ADA complaint - https://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm. This might make things a bit tense with the landlord, which can always suck if they're the spiteful type.

I believe because of the way they treated you that you are well within your rights to file the complaint, but the first option may be easier and less stressful in the long run as long as the other residents learn quickly.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Any legal eagles out there?
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2016, 02:51:13 PM »
You might also want to contact the department of Housing and Urban Development (202)-619-8046 to get all your ducks in a row.  Like OM, I don't see this as an unreasonable request.  It literally costs them nothing.

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: Any legal eagles out there?
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2016, 03:03:05 PM »
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has a link:

http://www.ncdhhs.gov/assistance/hearing-loss/regional-centers-for-the-deaf-hard-of-hearing

This is for:  The Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (DSDHH) and provides services through its seven North Carolina regional centers. These services are open to Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf-Blind individuals. Family members, professionals, agencies and individuals seeking information or assistance also have access to these services. There is no charge for these services.

They should be able to help you or direct you to legal resources to assist you.

Offline Lord Mayerling

Re: Any legal eagles out there?
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2016, 05:31:50 PM »
Dogs are considered property of their owners, not the owners of the property where dogs happen to be living. Thus, the landlord is not responsible for dogs, or their actions, on the landlord's property. Instead, the dog's actions are the liability of the dog's owner.

Landlords are also not required to respond to 'reasonable accommodation' from tenants. Their legal obligation ends at providing heat, hot water, and locks on the doors. Reasonable accommodation law generally only applies to employers and their employees.

You probably have no legal recourse unless you or your dog actually suffers an attack and damages (doctor and/or vet bills). Then, you would sue the dog owner for those damages.

I would suspect that most lawyers reviewing this situation would suggest that you move at the end of your lease, or attempt to end the lease early, and move into another place that doesn't allow dogs (your service animals would be accepted under the law).






Online BlinkinTopic starter

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Re: Any legal eagles out there?
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2016, 07:58:47 AM »
I want to thank everyone for their help and the links; I'll be going into them and adding to my knowledge about the issue.

I do know that both the ADA and FHA have sections specifically related to both the disabled and service animals in regards to housing and safety as well as what constitutes a reasonable accomidation under the law of both acts; I just wasn't sure if there was some other way to push for the relatively small request for the safety of both dog and owner.

Under both of these acts, a landlord is required to accept a reasonable accomidation for the disabled if certain criteria are met and the exception to the policies of the landlord doesn't constitute an undue hardship or a burdensome expense to the landlord.

As examples, we already have 2 accomidations with this management company.

1. Late fees for rent payments has been waved because our only income is SSDI and that payment is not made until the 10th of the month. So, a late fee is not accured until the 15th instead of the 5th of the month.

2. A tactile strip was placed along the edge of the property's pool to help us avoid falling into the pool and suffering an injury because the edge of the pool is otherwise invisible to us. It was considered a safety issue.

So, reasonable accomidations are not restricted to the work place or public areas of governmental buildings.

At any rate, I was not seeking a method of bringing suit against the management company, merely a source of law that might support our request beyond the equal access and enjoyment of common areas on the property. We have attempted to communicate with these two new residents, but it is difficult to do so when either refuses to achknowledge your presence outside of running into them physically.

Offline Alive She Cried

Re: Any legal eagles out there?
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2016, 01:17:07 PM »
Hey Blinkin,

(No, I did not say Abe Lincoln)

There are several factors here. Firstly is that you and your service animal are protected, but for whatever reason, common sense is becoming less and less... common, so people fail to realize that people with disabilities might need some extra room to get around. It should be common sense to not approach a service dog to pet or to allow their pet to attempt to play with them. People are forgetting to apply common sense, and it is as simple as that.

You have contacted your complex about your concerns of safety. Document that and hold on to it. Your next step is to contact the police department to file an information report. You're not pressing charges, you're not dooming anyone to a stay at the jail, but what you are doing is showing that you are legitimately concerned for your safety and documenting that you've sought solutions/options. The next step is to contact code enforcement (which the police will likely have you do) and code enforcement can come out and see if the complex is violating any city code on the matter. They can also inform you on ways to request a city ordinance/code be implemented to help protect you.

Code Enforcement might be able to mandate notices & signs as well, in addition to requiring the complex to send out notices to all renters, and perhaps include a 'People with disabilities' information guide with their new resident application package. The onus is on the business to protect its customers/residents.

Lastly, contact the corporate office of the community you live within. They're the ones with the actual authority to change the way their subsidiaries handle new resident applications, can force them to add disability information onto these applications, and can approve for signage and the like to be put up around your building. Corporates worry about liability. Liability is the ONLY thing corporations care about more than profit, bc liabilities eat away at nothing but profit, and liability cases only cause for their liability insurance to skyrocket.

When contacting corporate, inform them that you are in the process of contacting the police department and code enforcement to come out and take a report, as well as to look into the matter to see if the complex has violated any laws. Don't say that you've already done it, say that you're going to. This will ensure that they respond to you immediately. They do not want law enforcement and code enforcement called out, because generating a call for service with your/their address shows up on Compstats, and it can deter future residents from looking into residing there  "Man, the police gets called out there a lot, better look elsewhere." 

You have the responsibility to protect yourself, and guess what... so does corporate and they know this. Contact them, voice your concerns, detail what you've done so far, as far as going to the complex office is concerned. Do not tell them that you've already contacted the police and code enforcement, only inform them that you are going to, because this will ensure a rapid response from them.

Okay, maybe I did say Abe Lincoln.

~Alive

Online BlinkinTopic starter

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Re: Any legal eagles out there?
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2016, 02:03:04 PM »
I've been waiting years for someone to say that. lol

Yes, I stole the name from Men In Tites because I loved the character so much and it fit so well. lol

But, I haven't attacked any post lately and I don't look like a Van Gough either. ;)

Thanks for the suggestions and advice, I had considered going on to corperate, but I had concerns about reprocussions coming back down the line; We just got a new manager and I wanted to give her time to reconsider the request... Corperate, for some reason, swaps out our manager about every 6 to 9 months and every last one of them are mid 20's with no idea about client relations or even what they are doing to begin with... which is one reason why I wanted to get the I's crossed and the T's dotted so that she might get an education on what her responsibilities are... which means that I need to make sure what they are.

I've also considered calling the school that trained the dogs for an avocate to come in and inform the staff of the needs of a guide dog using blind person.