Assistance Animals – Best Practices for Housing Providers

HUD Issues Best Practices for Housing Providers in Dealing with Requests for Reasonable Accommodation of Assistance Animals.

For more on this topic, please see my 5/15/19 post: Do You Know How to Comply w Laws re Service and Assistance Animals?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued a notice on the subject of: Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act.

The notice is available here: https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PA/documents/HUDAsstAnimalNC1-28-2020.pdf

I read the notice.  It is remarkably short (19 pages) for a topic that is this complex.  It is also one of the most well-written regulatory-type documents I have seen in a long time.

Excerpts from the HUD Press Release of 1/28/2020:

Below are sizeable sections I have cut and pasted (without comment) from the HUD press release:

“HUD announced the publication of guidance clarifying how housing providers can comply with the Fair Housing Act when assessing a person’s request to have an animal in housing to provide assistance because of a disability.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing against individuals who have disabilities that affect a major life activity. The Act requires housing providers to permit a change or exception to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary to provide people with 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. A common reasonable accommodation is an exception to a no pet policy. A person with a disability that affects a major life activity may require the assistance of an animal that does work, performs tasks, or provides therapeutic emotional support because of the disability. Housing providers may confirm, if it is not apparent, whether the requested accommodation is needed because of a disability that affects a major life activity and is a reasonable request.

This new Assistance Animal Notice will help housing providers in this process by offering a step-by-step set of best practices for complying with the Act when assessing accommodation requests involving animals and information that a person may need to provide about his or her disability-related need for the requested accommodation, including supporting information from a health care professional.

Additionally, this new Assistance Animal Notice provides information on the types of animals that typically may be appropriate and best practices for when the requested animal is one that is not traditionally kept in the home. It also provides information for both housing providers and persons with disabilities regarding the reliability of documentation of a disability or disability-related need for an animal that is obtained from third parties, including internet-based services offering animal certifications or registrations for purchase.”

Conclusion:

HUD has given housing providers a new tool for dealing with one of the more contentious issues these days.  I recommend that providers read the whole thing and make use of the best practices it contains.

Sincerely,

Michael Oswald

michael@msochartered.com

www.msochartered.com

Please note: the above post contains educational information. It is not intended as legal advice. Engage an attorney who is licensed in your state to get advice on dealing with any specific legal issue.

© 2020 Michael S. Oswald

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