Roommates + Landlords

A Queens landlord faces huge fines for failing to accommodate a disabled tenant

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How much total do you plan to tip the building staff this year?

Consider this an important, if depressing, reminder that landlords can't simply ignore the needs of renters with disabilities: a Queens landlord has been fined a whopping $120,000 after refusing to install a suitable bathtub for a severely disabled tenant, the New York Post reports.

Landlord Milena Jovic reportedly refused numerous requests over the course of two years to install a more accessible bathtub for a tenant's disabled 17-year-old daughter, who wears leg braces and was physically unable to get into the apartment's current tub. "It's horrible. It's been a nightmare.... Shame on her," the tenant told the Post.

According to the paper, the tenant sought help from the city's Human Rights Commission, which then ordered the landlord to install a new, smaller tub at the cost of between $8,500 and $10,000. Since the landlord failed to comply, an administrative law judge has now imposed penalties to the tune of a $40,000 fine, $50,000 to the tenant for emotional distress, and $30,000 to the disabled daughter. The Human Rights Commission has actually sought even higher penalties in the case (totally $370,000), and plans to review the decision.

And it's not so surprising that the city's taking a hard line against this landlord: Their refusal to provide a usable bathtub to a disabled tenant is a clear violation of the city's Human Rights Law, real estate attorney Cathy Grad tells us. "The human rights law requires that a landlord provide reasonable accommodation for a disabled tenant, whether they're in a rent-stabilized or market-rate apartment," Grad explains. "This is actually the same law connected to the requirement for landlords to allow 'emotional support pets'."

For this reason, the HRC makes it easy to report a problem and file a complaint (they've got instructions on their website here), though you could also hire an attorney to take the case to the Supreme Court. "Generally, if there's a problem, tenants file with the Human Rights Commission, who will look at it and decide whether you have a claim or not, and then prosecute it for you," says Grad.