Emotional Assistance Animals and Accommodations

Elina B. Gilbert | Tuesday, September 27, 2011 | Community Associations Miscellaneous

A housing cooperative in Bronx, New York and two of its employees was recently charged with violation of the Fair Housing Amendments Act by HUD because it did not allow an “emotional assistance animal to be housed on the community.  In this case, the community had a “no pets” provision.  However, the tenant provided the co-op with letters from his doctor and the City of New York’s Department of Health verifying the animal’s service status and confirming his need to have the animal.  Nevertheless, the co-op concluded there was no evidence to show the disability required a support animal.  The Fair Housing Amendments Act (“FHAA”) applies to housing projects (including co-ops and homeowner associations) and does require reasonable accommodations or modifications to be provided for disabled residents.  A reasonable accommodation requires the waiving or modifying a particular rule, policy, procedure or practice in order for a handicapped or disabled person to have equal access to and enjoyment of their housing.  The claim in this case involves the failure of the co-op to waive its “no pets” policy to accommodate this resident.  A hearing has not yet been held on this matter.  What do you think the outcome should be and why?

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