The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), just issued new guidelines relating to assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act, known as the Assistance Animal Notice and replaces the prior HUD Guidelines from 2013. Keep in mind Homeowners – it is unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability in order for that person to have an equal opportunity to enjoy their dwelling.
Here are the top 5 take-aways homeowners should know. Information is obtained from the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity guideline – FHEO-2020-01. For the complete guidelines, visit: https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PA/documents/HUDAsstAnimalNC1-28-2020.pdf
- Assistance Animals are NOT PETS. There are two types of assistance animals, (1) Service Animals, any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability, and (2) Support Animal, other trained or untrained animals that do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities.
- What a Housing Provider Can Ask a Person With a Disability? The only questions that should be asked are as follows:
- Is the animal a dog? If no – it is NOT a ‘service animal’ (but could still be a support animal).
- Is the animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task is the animal trained to do
- Note: Do not ask about the nature or extent of the person’s disability, and do not ask for documentation. Truth and accuracy of information provided during the process can be part of the representations made by the tenant under a lease.
- If NOT a Service Animal, What Can the Housing Provider Ask?
- Has the individual asked for a reasonable accommodation to get or keep an animal in connection with a physical or mental impairment?
- Has the individual provided information that reasonably supports the disability?
- Has the individual provided information which reasonably supports that the animal does work, performs tasks, provides assistance, and/or provides therapeutic emotional support with respect to the individual’s disability?
- What Documentation Does a Tenant Need to Provide for an Assistance Animal?
- Information from a licensed health professional. Documentation obtained from websites on the Internet who provide certificates to anyone who just answer certain questions for fee is NOT, by itself, sufficient evidence.
- A connection between the disability and the need for an assistance animal must be provided. This is particularly the case where the disability is non-observable, and/or the animal provides therapeutic emotional support.
- Type of Animal. The animal should be one that is commonly kept in households. If not, reasonable accommodations do not need to be provided, but note there are unique situations outlined in FHEO-2020-01 that are rare exceptions.