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DES MOINES — The Iowa Court of Appeals says the Sioux City Human Rights Commission may sue the owners of rental properties for housing discrimination for rejecting renters with disabilities who asked to keep companion animals in their homes.

In a decision filed Wednesday, a three-judge panel concluded the city and its civil rights commission have standing to sue for violations of the law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

The city first sued James W. Boyd Revocable Trust and its trustees James Boyd and Jennifer Boyle in March 2017, claiming they violated the law by denying reasonable accommodation of a disability. The city seeks a court order to stop the practice, civil penalties and punitive damages.

The city says applicants for rentals were told that no animals were allowed in 2014 and again in 2016.

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A judge dismissed the lawsuit in March 2018, finding the commission was not an "aggrieved person" eligible to sue under Iowa law.

The appeals court judges applied the federal discrimination law definition, which allows a local civil rights commission to directly litigate discrimination concerns.

They sent the case back to district court for trial.

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