HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) has issued new regulations that clarify the responsibilities that landlords shoulder in regard to companion animals inside rental properties.
The recently released notice explains how the FHA and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) intersect concerning the use of assistance or service animals by individuals who have disabilities.
The FHA (Fair Housing Act) prohibits any landlord from discriminating based upon familial status, sex, religion, national origin, color, race, and disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against those who have disabilities in communications, public accommodations, transportation, employment and local and state government activities.
Both regulations feature provisions that address using assistance or service animals by those who have disabilities. While the FHA covers almost all kinds of housing, some kinds of housing, like public housing, are now covered by both regulations.
Disability-associated complaints, which include the ones involving assistance animals, are the most typical discrimination complaint they receive, according to John Trasvia, HUD Asst. Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity.
HUD’s recent notice discusses housing providers obligations underneath the FHA, which includes the need to offer suitable accommodations to those who have disabilities requiring assistance pets. Animal restrictions can’t be used to limit or deny housing to those who have disabilities requiring the usage of assistance animals due to their disability. In accordance with the law, housing providers have to grant appropriate accommodations in these types of cases.
Two threshold questions have to be addressed as a tenant requests a companion animal, according to the notice:
- Does the individual wanting to use and reside with the pet have a disability” that is, a mental or physical impairment which significantly restricts one or more life activities?
- Does the individual making this request have a disability-associated requirement for an assistance pet? Does the animal work, in other words, offer assistance, do services or tasks for the benefit of someone who has a disability, or offers emotional support which relieves one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an individual’s present disability?
If the answer to question number one or number two is “no,” the law doesn’t require a modification of a current “no pets” rule, and the appropriate request for accommodation might be denied.
But, if the answer to those questions is “yes”, a landlord has to modify or offer an exception to a “no pets” regulation to allow someone who has a disability to reside with and utilize an assistance pet(s) in all spaces of the premises in which persons normally are permitted to go, unless doing so might impose an undue administrative and financial burden or fundamentally would change the nature of a housing provider’s services.
Also, a request for a companion animal might be denied if:
The emotional support pet in question poses a threat to the safety or health of others which can’t be eliminated or reduced by another appropriate accommodation, or The assistance pet in question might cause significant physical property damage of others which can’t be eliminated or reduced by another appropriate accommodation. Weight limitations, size, and breed might not be applied to assistance pets.
A decision that an assistance animal poses a threat of harm to other people or could cause significant physical damage to the property of other people has to be based upon an individualized evaluation which relies on objective proof about the animal’s conduct not merely on fear or speculation concerning the kinds of damage or harm an animal might cause and not on proof about damage or harm that additional animals have caused. Restrictions and conditions which housing providers apply to animals might not be applied to assistance pets. For instance, while housing providers might require residents or applicants to pay a pet deposit, these regulations can’t be applied to companion pets.
The landlord can’t deny a suitable accommodation request because they aren’t sure if the individual searching for the accommodation has a disability or disability-associated requirement for an assistance pet. Housing providers might ask people with disabilities who aren’t readily apparent or well-known to the provider to submit appropriate paperwork of a disability and disability-associated requirement for an assistance pet.
If the disability in question is readily apparent or well-known yet the disability-associated requirement for the assistance pet isn’t, the housing provider might request that the person offer paperwork for the disability-oriented necessity for an assistance animal. For instance, the housing provider might ask individuals seeking appropriate accommodation for an assistance pet to offer emotional support to offer paperwork from a social worker, psychiatrist, physician, or additional mental health specialist that the animal offers emotional support which relieves one or more of the identified effects or symptoms of a present disability. This type of paperwork is sufficient if it establishes that someone has a disability and that the pet will offer some kind of emotional support or disability-oriented assistance.
However, the landlord might not ask an applicant or tenant to offer paperwork that shows the disability or disability-associated necessity for an assistance pet if the disability or disability-associated requirement is readily apparent or already well-known to the provider.
Also, the housing provider might not ask a tenant or applicant to offer accessibility to medical providers or medical records or offer extensive or detailed documentation of or information on someone’s mental or physical impairments.
As HUD makes it crystal clear that private landlords have a legal responsibility under the FHA to accept any eligible companion pet into a rental property, the DOJ narrowed its service animal definition permitted into educational and government facilities underneath the Americans with Disabilities Act, to ‘any canine which individually is trained to perform work or do activities for the benefit of someone who has a disability, which includes a sensory, physical, intellectual, psychiatric, or additional mental disability. ESAs are expressly precluded.
For more information on getting your ESA letter for Housing please get in contact with us at (415) 966-0848.