Reasonable Accommodations: Service Animals in Rental Housing

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1 ~ Reasonable Accommodations: Service Animals in Rental Housing

2 ~~--~- Reasonable Accommodations ~ U.S. Housing Consultants - Who We Are,, Founded in 2005 in New Hampshire Dedicated to assisting Owners and Management Agents and Housing Authorities to work effectively through regulatory requirements and restrictions Does not work directly for any government entity, works solely for private owners and managers : Has over 600 clients nationwide Website: Phone: (603) US Housing CONSULTANTS

3 ~~~~ Reasonable Accommodations Overview In the rental housing industry, there were more than 27,000 fair housing complaints filed in Nearly half of these complaints were based on disability. And recent trends show that complaints frequently involve service and emotional support animals. This program will teach you to: ~ Understand the definition of disabled Know what is considered 11 reasonable" > Avoid common owner/ agent mistakes " Effectively comply with verification requirements " Realize that certain pet rules can be applied to service animals ~ Become familiar with acceptable types of service animals " Ensure that your own policies are not faulty *' Recognize the real-world risks of non-compliance

4 ~ Reasonable Accommodations Overview The first thing we need to know is, who is covered under the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)? FH Act is for most all housing providers with the exception of: owner-occupied buildings with no more than 4 units, single family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker; and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members. ~ Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (aka Section 504) apply to recipients of federal assistance from HUD,, Title II of ADA applies to public entities included entities that provide housing (public housing agencies, housing at state universities and other places of education). Title Ill of ADA applies to public accommodations, such as rental offices, shelters, assisted living facilities, etc.

5 ~ Reasonable Accommodations Overview ~ ADA ONLY: service animals are trained dogs. If you're governed by Fair Housing Act and/or 504 and the ADA, you must comply with requirements for all 3. In other words, Public entities or public accommodations operating housing facilities may not use the ADA definition of service animal as justification for reducing their Fair Housing Act and/or 504 obligations.

6 Disability - Defined The definition of disability with respect to an individual is: ~ A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; A record of such an impairment; or r Being regarded as having such an impairment

7 Disability - Defined Major Life Activities include, but are not limited to: ~ caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. Major bodily functions include but are not limited to: Functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, boweld, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions.

8 What does it mean to be "regarded as having such an impairment"? ~ An individual meets the requirement of "being regarded as having such an impairment" if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to a prohibited action because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity. ~ This does not apply to impairments that are transitory and minor. A transitory impairment is an impairment with an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less.

9 , What is a Reasonable Accommodation? " A ''reasonable accommodation" is a change in rules, policies and practices or a change in the way services are provided in order to enable a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to ensure full enjoyment of a unit or living space. Reasonable accommodations can be necessary when someone is applying for housing, during tenancy or to prevent eviction.

10 Reasonable Accommodations What is considered "Reasonable"? ~ Whether a particular accommodation is reasonable depends on a variety of factors and must be decided on a case-by-case basis. The determination of whether a requested accommodation is reasonable depends on the answers to two questions: First, does the request impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider? Second, would making the accommodation require a fundamental alteration in the nature of the provider's operations? If the answer to either question is yes, the requested accommodation is not reasonable. Even where a housing provider is not obligated to provide a particular accommodation because the particular accommodation is not reasonable, the provider is still obligated to provide other requested accommodations that do qualify as reasonable.

11 What is the difference between a Service Animal and an Emotional Support Animal? " There is no difference. Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals both have the ability to serve a function for persons with disabilities. Example: A seeing eye dog for a sight impaired resident and a ferret that provides emotional support to a disabled resident are both considered service animals. Emotional Support is considered a service.

12 Requirements for service animals Allowing service animals as a reasonable accommodation must meet three requirements: l. The resident/applicant must have a disability. 2. The animal must serve a function directly related to the resident/ applicant's disability. 3. The request to have the service animal must be reasonable.

13 Avoiding Common Owner/Agent Mistakes Banning animals due to neighbors' allergies. You cannot deny a service animal request based on the potential for a future issue involving other residents' allergies. But if you have an actual situation with a neighboring resident who has pet allergies, decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis. Allowing only dogs as service animals. Service animals do not have to be dogs. Under the applicable regulations, there is no restriction on what type of animal a resident can choose as a service animal. Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to a service animal. Check with local codes for restrictions.

14 Avoiding Common Owner/Agent Mistakes ~ Requesting animal training documentation. Per the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal for a landlord to question the resident regarding the training level of the service animal. Landlords must allow any type of animal that is assisting a resident with his/her disability, if allowed by local code. Demanding medical documentation. You cannot require specific documentation about the resident's disability if the disability is visible and obvious. If the disability is not obvious, you can ask for verification of the disability and the need for the animal as treatment if that link is not obvious. Sufficient documentation would be a letter from the professional treating the disability stating the animal is necessary due to the disability.

15 Avoiding Common Owner /Agent Mistakes Requiring that the prescribing professional is a medical doctor. You cannot refuse to accept a ~rescription for a service animal simply because a medical doctor didn t write it. Any professional qualified to treat the disability may write the prescription. I Requiring a pet deposit. Service animals are not pets; therefore, you cannot charge a pet deposit or pet fees for service animals. " Applying pet policies to service animals. Service animals are not pets. Therefore, a community's Pet Policy does not apply to service animals.

16 ~ Reasonable Accommodations Service Animal Rules You have the ability to protect other residents from unruly service animals and to protect your units from destruction. Damages: You can require the resident to pay for any damages caused by the service animal, such as chewed carpeting or urine stains and smells. Because you cannot charge a pet deposit for a service animal, be sure to include the provision for damages in the lease agreement.

17 Service Animal Rules " Neighbor complaints I> If other residents complain about repeated barking and disturbing the peace, you can take the issue to the disabled resident. However, a housing provider should first attempt resolution of the problem before eviction proceedings are initiated. Complaints about service animals must be substantiated and not based on speculation. ~ Health ~ You can require that all animals in your housing be properly vaccinated by a veterinary doctor and that their owners properly dispose of all waste and observe any applicable local health laws. You should require that owners of service animals comply with all animal-related laws in your area, including any laws relating to spay/ neuter, rabies and other vaccinations and local animal registration/permits

18 Service Animal Rules Bad behavior ~ If a service animal bites or otherwise presents a threat to other residents, check your local animal control laws. You or the resident involved in the incident may need to report this to the appropriate animal control agency or department, or the local police. Keep in mind, however, that some local and state laws exempt service animals from some animal control laws. Be sure to consult with an attorney or your local government to understand any such exemptions.

19 Case Study 1 A Fair Housing Center tester visited an apartment community. The tester told the employee that she was looking for an apartment to rent and revealed that her husband had a service dog for his disability. The employee explained that there was a $400 deposit and $40 per month fee for dogs. The tester asked whether these fees would be waived for her husband's service dog, and the employee told the tester that the pet deposit would be waived only if the dog was trained and certified.

20 Case Study 1 The employee made three errors: 1) Requiring a pet deposit. Service animals are not pets; therefore, pet deposits do not apply. 2) Requiring a monthly pet fee. Because service animals are not pets, pet fees do not apply. 3) Requiring the dog to be trained and certified. Service animals do not require training or certification.

21 Case Study l The Fair Housing Center continued to test this community and still found discriminatory practices. The Center mailed approximately 900 brochures and educational literature about reasonable accommodations to this community's residents to educate them about the fair housing rights of persons with disabilities. A complaint was filed November 15, 2012 against the apartment community.

22 ~ ~ Reasonable Accommodations Case Study 2 On November 10, 2012, the court entered a settlement agreement for a complaint, filed on February 14, 2012, alleging that a housing cooperative for senior adults refused to allow a bed-ridden woman with depression, anxiety, severe pulmonary hypertension, cirrhosis and diabetes to keep an emotional support animal during the last year of her life, and then, after she died, threatened to evict her husband if he did not pay fines related to the dog. The settlement agreement requires the defendant to pay the husband $ 5 8, 750 in damages, adopt an assistance animal policy, attend fair housing training and comply with reporting and record keeping requirements.

23 Case Study 3 On October l 0, 2012, the court entered a consent order for a complaint, filed on September 28, 2012, alleging that a condominium association that manages a 776 unit condominium complex, violated the Fair Housing Act by denying a resident with a psychiatric disability a reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal and by having and implementing a no-pets policy limiting the use of assistance animals in the complex. The consent decree requires the association to pay resident $15,000 in monetary damages, establish a $1 5,000 Settlement Fund for additional potential aggrieved persons, and pay a $10,000 civil penalty. The decree also requires the association to adopt a reasonable accommodation policy, have its members undergo education and training and imposes reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

24 Case Study 4 On February 27, 2012, the court entered a consent decree in which the United States alleged that a condominium association and its property manager prohibited a former resident with disabilities from keeping an emotional support animal. The complaint also alleged that defendants also attempted to charge the resident pet fees and required that he purchase liability insurance for the animal. The complaint further alleged that when the resident refused to pay the pet fees, the defendants fined his landlord, who then refused to renew the resident's lease. Under the consent decree, the former resident will receive $20,000 in damages, and the defendants will adopt a new policy that removes all fees and insurance requirements for service animals.

25 Reasonable Accommodations Resources ~ Americans with Disabilities Act: Fair Housing Act: ~ National Fair Housing Alliance: ; HUD Section 504: I hudportal I HUD?src= /program offices I fair _housing equal opp/disabilities /sect504 FHEO Notice : /documents/huddoc?id=serv animals ntcfheo pdf

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