Human Rights Commission sues Wincor Properties LLC over service animal dispute

MORGANTOWN — WinCor Properties LLC and its owner, Donald E. Corwin, are being sued by the West Virginia Human Rights Commission for violations of the West Virginia Fair Housing Act.

The commission filed the suit in Monongalia County Circuit Court Aug. 6, on behalf of Jessica Reed.

The suit seeks an injunction requiring WinCor to stop its alleged discriminatory practices and ordering it to take steps to prevent future discrimination. It also seeks punitive and actual damages as determined by a jury.

According to the suit, Reed signed a lease with WinCor in January 2017 for an apartment on Beechurst Avenue. The lease did not allow pets in the apartment.

In August 2017, one of Reed’s doctors said an emotional support animal had and would continue to help relieve symptoms of her disability and wrote a letter with her opinion. The suit does not specify the nature of Reed’s disability.

Later in the month, Reed moved into the apartment with an emotional support dog. Two days later, she took the doctor’s letter to WinCor’s leasing office on Beechurst Avenue and asked for an accommodation for the animal.

The suit alleges that the company refused to accept the letter and told her she needed to fill out some forms, but similar requests were always refused. While in the office, Corwin verbally harassed Reed, the suit stated.

After Reed left the leasing office, Corwin went to her apartment and made more harassing and threatening statements and again refused to accept the doctor’s letter.

That same day, Aug. 16, 2017, WinCor began sending notices of lease violations fining her $50 a day until the animal was gone.

Less than a week later, on Aug. 22, the Northern West Virginia Center for Independent Living (NWVCIL) submitted a request for reasonable accommodation to WinCor on Reed’s behalf. Later that day, Reed received a “Legal Notice of Lease Violation – No Pet Clause” from WinCor.

NWVCIL filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development three days later, alleging WinCor violated federal and state fair housing laws. The complaint was referred to the West Virginia Human Rights Commission for investigation.

WinCor was served a notice of discrimination by the commission on Sept. 7.

On Sept. 18, a “retaliatory eviction action” was filed by Wincor against Reed in Monongalia County Magistrate Court. According to court documents the two sides have tentatively reached an agreement pending a court order.

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