Service Animals and HOA Regulations
Many HOAs have regulations regarding pets within the community. Some may prohibit pets completely, and others have limitations on the type and size of the pet. However, HOAs with pet regulations may need to change their rules for service animals. If your HOA prohibits or limits pets, check out these important facts about service animals within HOA communities.
The Fair Housing Act Supports Service Animals
Service animals are not subject to HOA pet prohibition. If your HOA doesn’t allow pets at all, it still has to allow service animals. If it prohibits animals over 20 pounds, but a resident has a service animal that weighs 50, the HOA must allow it. This is because service animals are not considered pets; they are considered working animals. They and their owners are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which HOAs must follow. According to the act, the HOA does not have the right to prohibit people with service animals from living within the community, and they can’t prohibit their service animals.
Comfort Animals Are Also Protected
Comfort animals are another protected group under the Fair Housing Act. Unlike service animals, comfort animals don’t have training or certification. They are simply animals that comfort the owner and help them overcome emotional disorders. However, although they have no special training, they are still not subject to any HOA pet-prohibition rules. Not just anyone can claim their pet is a comfort animal. Although the animal has no training or certification, the owner’s doctor must prescribe a comfort animal for it to qualify.
The HOA Has Some Rights
The HOA does have some rights when allowing service animals. First, they can request documentation from the resident’s doctor that the service or comfort animal is needed. You may even be able to find out how the animal has been trained to deal with the disability, but check with your local law before asking. Last, although the animal isn’t considered a pet, you can still require it follows some of the pet rules. For example, you can insist the owner never allows the animal outside alone, the owner must always clean up after the animal, and the owner is responsible for any damage caused by the animal.
Service and comfort animals help many people with disabilities or emotional disorders. They aren’t considered pets, so HOAs cannot prohibit them, but the owner must still take responsibility for their service animal.
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