JDC Medical Legal Project: Legal Advocacy Improves Client’s Health

Sarah* has severe allergies and a cough which are aggravated by the presence of animal hair. In May 2011, she moved into a building that was supposed to be a “Pet Free Environment,” according to the terms of the lease and representations by her landlord.

Soon after moving in, Sarah noticed that her neighbor had a dog and, then later, a cat. Sarah complained to her landlord verbally and via email several times over the course of a year, but no action was taken and Sarah’s health continued to suffer. Sarah was referred to the Justice & Diversity Center’s Medical-Legal Project in July 2012, and over the course of a six-month period, a volunteer attorney placed through JDC’s Pro Bono Legal Services Program, worked with her to require the landlord to enforce the “no pet” provision in the lease and to provide a safe, healthy, and habitable environment.

After a series of conversations, letters, and meetings, the landlord finally acknowledged his responsibility and the tenant with the pets ultimately moved out. Sarah reports that there have been no pets in the building since December 2012. Her breathing is better, and her shortness of breath and sinus headaches are gone. She is relieved to be able to remain in housing that she can afford without further compromising her health.
For more information about the Justice & Diversity Center’s holistic Medical Legal Project, email probono@sfbar.org.

*name has been changed