Fair Housing Act - Service Animals / Emotional Support

Posted by Mords1944 on December 18th, 2020

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Fair Housing Act (FHA)
Here we will discuss the additional laws established by the FHA. Note that ADA covers commercial areas where FHA covers residential. Also, the ADA does not cover emotional support animals, but the FHA does.
The Fair Housing Act: Protects tenants from landlord discrimination. It prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of homes on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or persons with disabilities.

Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) of 1988:

Assistance animal: An animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of a person's disability.
an assistance animal does not have to be individually trained or certified
Once an assistance animal is approved, the landlord cannot collect associated pet fees or deposits.
a landlord cannot place breed or weight restrictions on an assistance animal
What can you need?
the prospect or resident must have a disability within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act
there must be a disability-related need for the animal
Questions allowed:
Is the disability apparent or known?
Is the animal's disability-related need evident or known?
If both the disability and the animal's disability-related need are obvious and known, you cannot ask any further questions and you cannot require any additional verification or documentation.
If the disability is not apparent or known, you can request reliable documentation of the assistance animal's disability and disability-related need.
For emotional support animals, you can request documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability.
You can deny an accommodation request when:

It would cause undue financial hardship on the property
would create an administrative burden on the property
the specific animal would be a direct threat to property or would cause substantial physical damage to property
if there is insufficient verification when disability is not apparent
The prospect / tenant can request your animal in any way, even something as simple as writing their request on a sticky note. There is no formal application form and you cannot require them to use one that you create.
The next step is to request that the doctor or medical provider provide written verification. Again, it doesn't have to be in a specific form. You must accept verification from a trusted third party confirming that the applicant has a disability within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act and confirming that there is a disability-related need for the animal.

Without sufficient verification, you can deny the applicant. And beware, there are many sites online that provide certifications without requiring any disability verification.

How the ADA and the FHAA are different:

The ADA applies to areas of public accommodation. It does not apply to areas of the property that are not open to the general public. (ie service animals must be able to enter the leasing office).
The FHAA applies to all property. (Qualified service and emotional support animal certification must be allowed to live in your rental property.)

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