Tenant challenges landlord; wins $10K with help of Legal Aid

Young, blonde woman smiles while holding cat with dark grey fur close to her face.

A psychology major who does her homework, in school and in life, Taylor Zaugg knew exactly what she needed when faced with her own mental health challenges. “I understood, I had a basket of things to help me cope. In it are things like art, group therapy, experiencing the outdoors and animals.” For Taylor, Cruz, the cat, has been essential in helping her cope. He’s her Emotional Support Animal. Without him, she fears her mental health symptoms would be at their worst.

So as a student on a budget, living in the most affordable apartment she could find, she researched the laws on ESAs because she didn’t want to lose her home. “I was in a place where the landlord didn’t want pets. But I knew an ESA was different.” The problem was, her landlord didn’t, and refused renewal of her lease. While she lost her apartment, Taylor’s homework paid off.

She did what she learned on the web. She filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. They investigated. For the mediation phase of the process, she needed an attorney. “On the Internet, I stumbled across Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and that’s how I found Courtney.”

Housing Attorney Courtney Arthur said Taylor did everything right. “We helped her with mediation and determined what the usual judgments were in a case like hers. The landlord agreed to compensate Taylor $10,000 and also agreed to do fair housing training.”

Taylor’s advice for others, “A landlord can say their building is no pets. But an ESA is not a pet. I hope my story helps people understand their rights.”