(Handling Assistance Animal Requests In An HOA)
Some communities have covenants or other rules that ban all pets or certain types of animals, breeds, or animals over a certain weight. Yet, many disabled homeowners or residents ask for exceptions to such covenants, rules, or policies, stating that they need an animal, not as a pet, but, rather, as an assistance animal. All too often, these requests are for “companion animals.” Such requests are for a reasonable accommodation under federal and state Fair Housing laws.
This Fair Housing Focus examines what an association and/or community manager’s responsibilities are for responding to reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals. Using the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (“HUD”) Joint Guidelines on reasonable accommodations, this article will explain how to respond to any request for an assistance animal.
First off, an association and its management company must respond to all requests for reasonable accommodations and/or modifications. Saying “no” right out of the gate to such a request is the wrong move. The HUD/DOJ Guidelines require associations to engage in an interactive dialogue with any homeowner or resident concerning a request for a reasonable accommodation or modification. The same is true for any request concerning an assistance animal. A request for an assistance animal is often a request for an exception to either a no-pet, breed-restriction, or animal weigh-restriction rule. Such a request requires the proper evaluation and response.