Emotional Support Animals and HOA “No Pet” Policies

It’s common to see a variety of disabled people with service animals to help them. However, more and more people who suffer from emotional conditions are getting emotional support animals. Like service animals, these animals are not subject to the same rules as traditional pets, so even if a neighborhood prohibits pets, these emotional support animals are still commonly allowed by the law.

The Fair Housing ActPets and HOAs

The fair housing act was first adopted in 1968, and it was designed to make discrimination against race, color, religion or country of origin illegal. In 1988, it was amended to include people with disabilities. This means that if a resident has a prescribed emotional support animal, and the community doesn’t allow animals, the community cannot discriminate against them, and they must allow the animal. This law supersedes all HOA rules and regulations. If the neighborhood has limitations on the type of animals or size/breed of dogs allowed, those restrictions do not apply to the emotional support animal either.

In Some Cases, Service Animals Can Still Be Denied

There are, however, some situations in which the animal is still not allowed. If the building has four or less units, and the landlord occupies one of the units, community managers and landlords do not have to allow the animal. Another exemption from the law is single family homes where no real estate agent was used to buy or rent. Lastly, if a private club or organization purchases housing for members, they are also exempt.

The Emotional Support Animal Has to Follow the Rules

Just because the animal must be allowed to live in the community, it doesn’t give it the freedom to do whatever it wants. It’s important to create fair rules for the emotional support animal and discuss them with the resident. For example, if the resident has a support dog, common rules may include walking the dog on a leash, picking up after it and not letting it destroy property. Community managers don’t want to infringe on the rights of the resident, but they also don’t want to upset everyone else in the community. These rules create a safe balance to keep everyone happy.

Documentation Can Be Requested

The community manager doesn’t have to take the resident’s word that the animal is a legitimate emotional support animal. Documentation can be requested. Unlike service animals, emotional support animals don’t require any special training or certification, but the resident should have a prescription from a physician or therapist, stating they need the animal.

Despite a few exceptions, the laws regarding emotional support service animals override any HOAs rules and regulations. Community managers can request proof, but if everything is in order, they must make reasonable accommodations for the tenant and animal.

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