Legislative Update on Emotional Support Animals

On June 23, 2020, Governor DeSantis approved Senate Bill 1084, which made certain changes to Florida’s existing housing laws as they pertain to emotional support animals (“ESA”).  The new legislation, which went into effect on July 1, 2020, aims to penalize: (i) individuals who falsify and/or provide fraudulent information in order to obtain documentation supporting the need for an ESA; and (ii) healthcare professionals who provide documentation supporting the need for an ESA without personal knowledge of the requesting person’s disability.  In particular, Fla. Stat. § 817.265 now provides that it is a second-degree misdemeanor for an individual to provide falsified and/or fraudulent information to obtain ESA documentation.  Moreover, Fla. Stat. § 456.072 now provides that a healthcare professional who provides ESA documentation without personal knowledge of the person’s disability is subject to disciplinary action.

 

Through the passage of Senate Bill of 1084, the Florida legislature has also adopted Fla. Stat. § 760.27, which provides definitions for the terms, “emotional support animal” and “housing provider,” and addresses the unlawful discrimination of housing provided to persons with disabilities or disability-related needs for an ESA. The new statute also codifies the procedures community associations must follow in receiving and processing reasonable accommodation requests for persons with an ESA.

 

Specifically, Fla. Stat. § 760.27(2)(a) authorizes a community association to deny a reasonable accommodation request for an ESA if the animal poses a direct threat to the safety or health or others or a direct threat of physical damage to the property of others. Under Fla. Stat. § 760.27(2)(b), community associations are further authorized to request reliable information that reasonably supports that the person requesting the reasonable accommodation has a disability, if the person’s disability is not readily apparent.  However, the request may not seek information that discloses the diagnosis or severity of the person’s disability or any medical records relating to the disability.  In addition, community associations cannot require a person with an ESA requesting a reasonable accommodation to pay a fee for the ESA.  Finally, Fla .Stat. 760.27(3)(c) expressly provides that ESA registration of any kind, such as that commonly obtained on the internet is not, by itself, sufficient information to establish that a person has a disability or disability-related need for an ESA.

 

Click here to review Senate Bill 1084 in its entirety.

 

About the Author: Katrina Sosa concentrates her practice in the areas of complex business law and litigation, condominium association law and construction law. Since joining the firm, she has worked on both litigation and transactional matters. Katrina has worked on various phases of construction defect litigation ranging from the inception of the case to preparing for trial. On the transactional side, she has worked on a shareholder buyout for a local food company as well as real estate acquisitions.

 

*Article was previously published by the Brickell Homeowners Association.

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