Have you wondered how accommodation requests for assistance animals (service animals or emotional support animals) can affect your business?
According to the Fair Housing Act, “Apartment owners and operators are required to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space.”
The most requested reasonable accommodation is for an emotional support animal (ESA) that would normally be prohibited from residing with the resident. This means according to the law, housing providers must consider making exceptions to rules that prohibit animals in a no-pets building, prohibit certain aggressive breeds on the property or limit the number of animals in a unit. Owners and operators also are required to waive pet fees or deposits for assistance animals.
Clarity is Needed
The challenge is a lack of clarity in the law which has created a loophole that fosters a system where online outlets profit from producing the verification required by law for anyone willing to pay for it. With the volume of requests, apartment owners and operators have a hard time parsing out the legitimate from the illegitimate requests.
According to Nicole Upano, Director of Public Policy, National Apartment Association, “Housing providers need clarity around what is considered “reliable” documentation when it comes to residents’ requests for assistance animals, or more commonly, emotional support animals. This lack of clarity has made owners and operators feel unnecessarily exposed to fair housing complaints, unable to properly implement rules and policies around residents’ animals and ill-prepared to deal with residents’ concerns, like how to address issues related to an emotional support animal that would normally be on a prohibited breed list.”
New Guidance issued by HUD
On January 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released new guidance to clarify the responsibilities of both rental housing providers and renters concerning reasonable accommodation requests for emotional support animals (ESAs) in housing.
In light of the new guidance, NAAEI has updated the Emotional Support Animals course, available on Visto, to better educate industry professionals on the process to evaluate requests for assistance animals, when you can ask for reliable documentation, the rules related to multiple animals and guests’ animal requests and addressing a number of other frequently asked questions. The course also provides scenarios, script language you can use to train your staff, and many resources the user can download for easy reference.
The Emotional Support Animals course is available on Visto and you earn three CECs