Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Landlord Has to Pay $25,000 Dollars for Trying to Evict Man With HIV For Having A Dog In a Pet Free Apartment Building

Richard M. Blake was diagnosed with HIV over 20 years ago. Because of this, Mr. Blake became depressed and wouldn’t leave his house. His blood pressure rose as well as his weight. Blake’s doctor recommended getting a dog as a companion in order to not feel lonely which would in turn hopefully improve his physical and mental health.

Blake asked his landlord if he could get the dog and he said yes. So with his landlord’s permission and his doctor’s request, Blake got a dog. After getting a dog Blake said that “She’s [the dog].. [has] given me sort of a routine in my life. She’s given me a lot of joy. Animals just seem to make it hard for you to be in a bad mood.’’ (
04/05/ landlord_must_pay_25000_for_trying_to_evict_hiv_patients_dog/).

After getting the dog, Blake’s blood pressure went done along with his weight. He stopped being depressed and went out of his home. “Ever since I have had her, the walks and the tons of exercise I do with her have helped,’’ Blake said. (
local/massachusetts/articles/ 2011/04/05/

Two months later, la Michael Lombardi, the landlord of Brighton Gardens in Massachusetts made a ruling that no pets are allowed in the apartment building. Drake asked Lombardi if since if he keep the dog since Lombardi said he could before the “now pets allowed” ruling, especially since the dog was important to him and added meaning in Drake’s life. The landlord denied Drake’s request, so Drake filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The committee ruled in favor of Drake saying that he was disabled and (according to the ruling) for Blake to “give up his dog would seriously jeopardize his emotional and physical well-being.’’ (
massachusetts/articles/ 2011/04/05/

“The commission also ruled that each of the five landlords should pay a $5,000 fine “given their utter intransigence’’ in refusing to discuss a “reasonable accommodation’’ with the man.”(

Lombardi criticized the ruling stating that, “my firm did not knowingly discriminate against anybody. Lombardi called the ruling “an extraordinary decision because they really haven’t pinpointed any discrimination.’’ (

Lombardi also didn’t know that been diagnosed with HIV is considered being disabled.

While I don’t think that Lombardi acted nicely towards Drake—first giving Drake permission to buy a dog to improve his mood and then two months later changing his mind, especially when the dog was shown to improve Drake’s life—isn’t a very compassionate and nice thing to do, I also feel legally speaking (not morally and ethically), Lombardi is in the right.

As a landlord, Lombardi has a right to impose any rule he wishes and if his tenants don’t like his ruling they can either learn to deal with it or find a new place to live that does allow pets. At the same time, Drake asked permission to get the dog from Lombardi and if Lombardi wanted a pet-free apartment he should have voiced this when Drake asked him about getting the dog—although saying this isn’t really fair to Lombardi since he changed his mind two months later and maybe there was a valid reason why this is the case. While I don’t think Lombardi acted very compassionate and more like a landlord, with an emphasis on the lord, I also think that the ruling might have been impacted by the fact that Drake has HIV and that the doctor recommended a dog as a companion and not having a dog as an integral part of being able to function (like in the case of a seeing eye dog for the blind, for example).

Gary Rome Auto Group would love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Do you find the case interesting? Do you think the committee was being objective in their ruling or was their ruling impacted by the fact that Drake has HIV?

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