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Assistance Animals: Are You Fair Housing Compliant?

Posted: March, 18, 2020 | Categories: Tips for the Workplace | Customer Service

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Assessing requests for animals as a reasonable accommodation can be a tricky business. On one hand, you want to make sure that all disabled individuals are receiving necessary accommodations...On the other hand, you don’t want residents to take advantage of the fair housing act to avoid following your community’s pet policy.

HUD recently published an in-depth guide on this topic; it’s helpful, but lengthy. So, I’ve combed through & put together some quick tips to help you stay compliant with the fair housing act when assessing assistance animals (and their owners) and determining whether you need to provide reasonable accommodation.

 

Recent FHA Complaints

A whopping 60% of all FHA complaints concern the denial of reasonable accommodations and disability access. The most common of these complaints concern reasonable accommodation for assistance animals.

Something to keep in mind: assistance animals are not pets. They are working animals that assist individuals with disabilities. There are two types of assistance animals:

  • Service animals – A dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that benefit an individual with a disability (including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability).
  • Support animals – Other animals that do work, perform tasks, or provide assistance, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities.

So, how do you avoid being part of this statistic? Let’s dive into HUD’s guide…

Please keep in mind, this overview is intended to help you make a decision, but is not an authoritative guide because, as you know, not all scenarios are black and white and each situation should be handled with care!

 

Is This Animal a Service Animal?

To determine whether you are required to make a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal, the first step is to determine whether the animal is a service animal, other assistance animal, or a pet.

This flow chart can help you determine that:

 

[Download here]

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Is This Animal a Support Animal?

Once you have determined the animal is not a service animal, the next step is to see if it qualifies as a different kind of assistance animal. Here’s part 2 of the flow chart to help you determine this:

 

[Download here]

HUD Animal - Chart2.jpg


By Lisa Wetzel
Vice President - Southern California, Multi-Family Division

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