HUD Issues Guidance on Emotional Support Animals

Victoria and Dave Ranck
Victoria and Dave Ranck
Published on May 5, 2020

New guidance from HUD aims to help address ambiguity about proper documentation for support animals. The goal is to make sure qualified disabled people can secure housing with an assistance animal even when “a small minority seeks to exploit weaknesses in the system.”

The following is from Florida Realtors association. To me, the most important statement in the document is that a certificate validating a need for an emotional support animal from an online vendor may not be sufficient documentation. However a certificate from a doctor acquainted with the individual would be sufficient documentation. The link to the full document is in the story below.

Service dogs are covered under the ADA guidelines and there is little ambiguity with purpose-trained service dogs. The issue that has arisen is over emotional support animals which are not trained service dogs but are animals (cats, dogs and other common “pets” ) that are required by a person for some kind of emotional support. For example and HOA may restrict a homeowner to dog with a weight of 25 lbs. or less. If a homeowner can show the need for a support animal, the HOA may not be able to enforce the weight restriction. The new guidelines are supposed to clarify the decision process for housing providers when choosing to allow or not allow a support animal.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published guidance for housing providers who accommodate assistance animals. The guide clarifies how housing providers can comply with the Fair Housing Act when assessing a request to have an animal that provides assistance because of a disability.

HUD says the new Assistance Animal Notice helps housing providers by offering a step-by-step set of best practices for complying with the Act when they’re assessing accommodation requests involving animals. For example, it includes information that a person may need to provide about their disability-related need, such as supporting information from a health care professional.

HUD posted the complete rule on its website. A step-by-step guide for housing providers begins on page six.

The Fair Housing Act “exists to protect millions of Americans with disabilities who rely on the support of their assistance animals – like those living with depression, military veterans suffering from PTSD and countless other deserving individuals,” says National Association of Realtors® (NAR) President Vince Malta. “But as NAR has stressed to HUD over recent months, these protections are jeopardized when a small minority seeks to exploit weaknesses in the system.”

The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to permit a change or exception to a rule, policy, practice or service that may be necessary to provide individuals who have disabilities that affect a major life activity an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their home.

In most circumstances, a refusal to make such a change or exception, known as a “reasonable accommodation,” is unlawful. In many cases, this reasonable accommodation is an exception to a no-pet policy for someone with a qualified disability who requires the assistance of an animal that does work, performs tasks or provides therapeutic emotional support because of that disability. Housing providers may confirm, if it is not apparent, whether the requested accommodation is needed and is a reasonable request.

“In my many discussions with housing providers and residents impacted by the need for assistance, I recognized the necessity for further clarity regarding support animals to provide peace of mind to individuals with disabilities while also taking in account the concerns of housing providers,” says HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “Today’s announcement responds to the ambiguity surrounding proper documentation for assistance animals with clarity and compassion to provide an equal opportunity for a person living with a disability to use and enjoy their home.”

“For housing providers, this is a tool that can be used to help them lawfully navigate various sets of sometimes complex circumstances to ensure that reasonable accommodations are provided where required, so that persons with a disability-related need for an assistance animal have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their housing,” says HUD General Counsel Paul Compton. “The guidance will help ensure that these important legal rights are asserted only in appropriate circumstances.”

The new guidance:

  • Provides information on the types of animals that typically may be appropriate and best practices if the requested animal is one not traditionally kept in the home
  • Offers information regarding the reliability of documentation of a disability or disability-related need for an animal obtained from third parties, including internet-based services offering animal certifications or registrations

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

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