Pulaski County couple threatened with eviction over assistance animal gets $30,000 settlement

The couple describes their treatment as ‘abusive’

Virginia's Attorney General is helping a Pulaski County couple who they say have been abused.

A Pulaski County couple that was threatened with eviction over their assistance animal is now getting a $30,000 settlement.

Charlene and Michael Butler provided the needed verification to bring Charlene’s assistance dog to live with them in Unique Deerfield Village Townhomes Complex before and after they moved in, according to the Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.

“No one deserves to be treated the way that we were treated, ever. I just want people to understand there are resources out there for you,” said Charlene Butler.

According to Herring’s office, the onsite property managers at the Butler’s townhome refused the couple’s accommodation request and imposed weight limits and a pet deposit fee on the assistance animal.

The Butlers then brought their request to the owner of the townhome, Jeffrey Stump, who sent the couple a written denial that threatened eviction.

“It has come to my attention that you have a pet residing in your unit. It makes no difference that is an emotional support dog. It is still a pet,” Stump said in a letter to the couple. The couple describes their treatment as “abusive.”

The Butler’s say they also won several other cases involving this complex.

Herring’s office said Stump then tried to evict the couple, but they filed a complaint alleging housing discrimination with the Virginia Fair Housing Office.

The Virginia Fair Housing Office investigated the couple’s claim and said that Stump and the property managers illegally discriminated against the Butlers by:

  • Refusing to grant a reasonable accommodation
  • Refusing to rent based on disability
  • Imposing discriminatory terms and conditions based on disability
  • Intimidating, harassing or coercing on account of having exercised fair housing rights

Attorneys from Herring’s office filed a complaint in Pulaski County Circuit Court and the couple and townhome management were able to reach a settlement out of court.

“I am thankful to both the Attorney General’s office and HOME for all of their help in this matter. If you are being harassed by your landlord due to your disability, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc., please speak up!” said Charlene Butler. “Everyone has the right to live in a safe, comfortable environment. The Attorney General’s office will stand up for you against discrimination and legal aid in your area can help you with a tenant’s assertion.”

“They are the target a lot of times for individuals who are trying to get money or get them to do things for them,” said Renee Adams Lester with Bridges of Roanoke. “If it’s housing, there are agencies to help with that. If they need the type of support that our agency provides with daily living needs and community integration and things like that.”

Bridges of Roanoke is one of many organizations that serve those dealing with emotional distress or some form of disability.

New River Valley Community Services is another organization with resources to help you.

As a part of the settlement, the landlord has to adopt non-discrimination and reasonable accommodation policies, go to a fair housing training annually for three years and pay the couple $30,000.

About the Authors:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a content producer in July 2018.

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.