Fair Housing Accommodation Required Only On Resident Request

by Tom Schild

Nearly 9 years after a fair housing complaint was filed in April 2003, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled in December 2011 that a Baltimore management company did not violate the Maryland fair housing laws.

In Wallace H. Campbell & Company, Inc. v. Maryland Human Relations Commission, the resident of an apartment complex contended that the management company discriminated against him based on his disability by requiring that mediation of a dispute be held at a location which was not wheelchair accessible.  At the 2003 mediation, the management company staff physically assisted the resident and carried his wheelchair up and down several steps.  The resident did not complain about the assistance, request that the mediation be held at a wheelchair-accessible location or request any other accommodation to his disability.

Nevertheless, the resident later filed a complaint with the Maryland Human Relations Commission (“Commission”) alleging that the management company refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to the resident’s disability.  After more than 4 years of investigation and hearings, the Commission determined there had been a violation of the Maryland fair housing laws, awarded $7,500 in damages, and imposed a $5,000 civil penalty.  The Commission decision was upheld by the trial court.

On appeal, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the decision of the Commission because the resident had not requested any accommodation to his disability and, therefore, the management company did not “refuse” to make an accommodation in violation of the Maryland fair housing laws.