Accommodation Requests For Assistance Animals in Condo Associations
While it is very common for condominium associations to include pet restrictions in their governing documents, associations are increasingly receiving reasonable accommodation requests from residents seeking to have either an emotional support or service animal live with them. Associations are considered housing providers under the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Florida Fair Housing Act and must comply with provisions set forth therein. These laws are enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD regulations require associations to consider the following questions in determining whether to grant a resident’s reasonable accommodation request:
- Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
- Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability?
If the answer to these questions is “yes”, associations must modify or provide an exception to their pet restrictions, and permit with resident seeking the reasonable accommodation request to live with and use their assistance animal in all areas of the property where the resident is normally allowed to go. This is required, unless doing so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services. If the answer to either of the foregoing questions is “no,” then the association can deny the resident’s reasonable accommodation request.
Associations cannot deny a resident’s reasonable accommodation request if they are uncertain whether or not the person seeking the accommodation has a disability or a disability-related need for an assistance animal. They may, however, ask the resident to submit reliable documentation of a disability and their disability-related need for an assistance animal.
Associations should err on the side of caution in reviewing reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals as they want to minimize their exposure to any potential discrimination lawsuits. As such, associations should have policies and procedures implemented to ensure that reasonable accommodation requests are timely and fairly reviewed.