PLAINTIFF-TENANT IS DISABLED BY DEPRESSION, DEFENDANT-LANDLORD’S REFUSAL OF PLAINTIFF’S REQUEST TO KEEP AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DOG IN HIS APARTMENT CONSTITUTED DISCRIMINATION UNDER THE FAIR HOUSING ACT AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS LAW, THE LANDLORD’S LIMITING PLAINTIFF’S LEASE TERM TO THREE MONTHS CONSTITUTED IMPERMISSIBLE RETALIATION (THIRD DEPT).
The Third Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Garry, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff-tenant’s discrimination and retaliation claims against defendant landlord should not have been dismissed. Plaintiff demonstrated his need for an emotional support dog (he suffers from debilitating depression) and further demonstrated the landlord’s denial of his request to keep a dog was discriminatory, and the landlord’s reduction of the lease term to three months constituted impermissible retaliation:
… [T]he parties have strictly limited their arguments on appeal on the question of discrimination to two narrow and carefully circumscribed issues: (1) whether defendant has a qualifying disability within the meaning of the FHA [Fair Housing Act] and the HRL [Human Rights Law] and (2) whether the accommodation he requested was “necessary to afford [him] equal opportunity to use and enjoy [his] dwelling” as provided in the statutes (42 USC § 3604 [f]  [B]; see Executive Law § 296  ). * * *
… [B]ased upon defendant’s significant limitations in the major life activities of working and interacting with others, we are satisfied that he is disabled within the meaning of the FHA … . …
The HRL’s definition of disability is broader than those used in the federal disability statutes … . The HRL does not require a showing of a limitation in a major life activity, but instead defines disability, as pertinent here, as “a physical, mental or medical impairment . . . [that] is demonstrable by medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques” (Executive Law § 292  [a]). Defendant’s therapist, a clinical psychologist, testified in some detail regarding the clinical techniques used to diagnose depression and defendant’s specific symptoms … . …
… [W]e find that defendant “offered sufficient evidence that having [an emotional support] dog would affirmatively enhance his quality of life by ameliorating the effects of his disability,” and thus demonstrated necessity within the meaning of the FHA and the HRL … . * * *
We are satisfied that plaintiff’s actions were sufficiently adverse to constitute interference with the exercise of defendant’s rights. Notably, discrimination against a disabled person in the terms or conditions of a lease is prohibited by the FHA and its implementing regulations … . Hollandale Apts. & Health Club, LLC v Bonesteel, 2019 NY Slip Op 03718, Third Dept 5-9-19