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on May 05, 2016 at 3:56 PM, updated May 05, 2016 at 4:12 PM
WASHINGTON, D.C. – An Oswego landlord has been charged with housing discrimination after refusing to allow a tenant to move in with a service dog for emotional support, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said Thursday.
HUD charged Hillside Park Real Estate in Oswego with violating the Fair Housing Act, claiming the company denied or limited housing to a person with a disability who requires the use of a service animal.
Federal law requires property owners to waive “no pet” policies in cases involving assistance or service animals.
HUD officials said the case involves a woman with a mental disability who filed a complaint after Hillside Park Real Estate denied her request to keep a 66-pound American Staffordshire terrier in an apartment she had leased.
The service dog helps treat the mentally disabled woman’s symptoms, giving her “a sense of calm and safety, allowing her to sleep at night,” HUD said, and helps calm the woman during panic attacks.
Stephanie Castaldo-Gorgoni, the property manager for Hillside Park Real Estate, was also charged in the case. She did not return phone messages Thursday. The company’s lawyer, Joseph P. Gorgoni of Syracuse, declined to comment.
HUD officials said the tenant had registered her dog with the National Service Animal Registry in June 2015, after signing a lease in April 2015. She was due to move in to the apartment July 1, 2015.
But Hillside Park Real Estate canceled her lease, and told her in a subsequent letter that she had not provided sufficient documentation that an emotional support animal is required, HUD said.
The federal complaint seeks $16,000 in a civil penalty against Hillside Park Real Estate, as well as damages to compensate the woman who was denied the right to rent the apartment.
Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said the agency will take enforcement action whenever the rights of persons with disabilities are violated.
“Persons who require assistance animals have as much right to housing as anyone else, and shouldn’t have their requests for such accommodations unlawfully denied,” Velasquez said.
The case is due to be heard by a federal administrative law judge.