Advertiser Disclosure

advertising disclaimer
Skip to main content
dog on the bed

Hawkeye State High Court Rules With Allergic Tenant

Jul 06, 2020 by Marc Rapport

A woman with severe allergies signed a lease for an Iowa City apartment because of its no-pets policy. A man with a demonstrated need for comfort animals did, too…just down the hall.

A year later, they met in court. Three years later, the Iowa Supreme Court sided with the first tenant in a June 30 ruling that awards her the equivalent of one month's rent as damages.

The Iowa case is an interesting read in this July 2 article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. From the landlord's perspective, it shows that two rights don't make a wrong, but they can end up in a drawn-out court battle.

Making accommodations doesn't settle the dust

The problem arose two months after the woman signed a lease in July 2016 with 2800-1 LLC for an apartment she chose because of its no-pet policy and her severe allergy to pet dander. The man signed a lease about two months later for a unit down the hall.

The newspaper said the court documents show that the man gave 2800-1 LLC a psychiatrist's letter attesting to a mental condition that impaired the man's ability to function and citing research demonstrating that caring for animals provides a therapeutic benefit.

The property manager asked other tenants about the request, and the woman noted her allergy to him. The manager then took the case to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission for a ruling, pointing out that he had other apartments in different buildings to offer the male tenant.

Separate stairwells and an air purifier

The commission told the property manager that offering a different apartment wasn't appropriate and to try to accommodate both tenants. According to the article, he did so by having them use separate stairwells and buying an air purifier for the woman's apartment.

The woman suffered allergy symptoms nonetheless and sued the landlord and her neighbor in small claims court in September 2017. The case wound its way to the Hawkeye State's high court after the first court said reasonable accommodations had been made and a district court said the state's law on emotional support animals was unclear.

The Iowa Supreme Court ultimately ruled with the allergy-stricken tenant because she had signed first.

Precedent and the unique nature of the case

Whether this ruling will add much to the weight of precedent used by judges everywhere to decide cases before them remains to be seen.

However, the rights of animal owners versus those who don't want them nearby is a much contested topic. Here's a rundown of such cases from the Animal Legal & Historical Center at Michigan State University.

The Iowa judge in this case cited the unique nature of the case herself.

"To be clear, our holding today is based on the specific facts of this case," wrote Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen. "Our balancing in this case is not a one-size-fits-all test that will create the same result under different circumstances, such as when the animal at issue is a service animal for a visually disabled person."

Unfair Advantages: How Real Estate Became a Billionaire Factory

You probably know that real estate has long been the playground for the rich and well connected, and that according to recently published data it’s also been the best performing investment in modern history. And with a set of unfair advantages that are completely unheard of with other investments, it’s no surprise why.

But in 2020 the barriers have come crashing down - and now it’s possible to build REAL wealth through real estate at a fraction of what it used to cost, meaning the unfair advantages are now available to individuals like you.

To get started, we’ve assembled a comprehensive guide that outlines everything you need to know about investing in real estate - and have made it available for FREE today. Simply click here to learn more and access your complimentary copy.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Popular Articles On Millionacres