Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week
Back to Basics on Assistance Animals
According to The Case for Fair Housing: 2017 Fair Housing Trends Report by the National Fair Housing Alliance, nearly 55% of all reported housing discrimination complaints in 2016 involved discrimination against people with disabilities.
This statistic is a reminder of how important it is to handle accommodation requests properly. Let’s review some of the basics.
Under the FHA and Section 504, individuals with a disability may be entitled to an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation in housing that places restrictions on or prohibits animals.
Remember, assistance animals include service animals, companion animals, and emotional support animals. They can be dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, or other types of animals.
Some examples of reasonable accommodation requests related to assistance animals are:
- Requesting to have an assistance animal in a community or building that doesn’t allow pets
- Requesting to have a 70 -pound dog in a community doesn’t allow dogs over 50 pounds
- Requesting to have a pit bull in a community where pit bulls are a restricted breed
There are three criteria that must be met for a person to be protected by the FHA and Section 504 in regard to assistance animals:
- The person must have a disability
- The animal must serve a function directly relates to the person’s disability
- The request to have the animal must be reasonable
Keep in mind that the FHA and Section 504 do not protect individuals who do not have disabilities, and they do not protect situations in which individuals train animals for use by other people. This means, for example, that you would not be required to grant an exception to a no pet policy for a resident who does not have a disability but has a dog that keeps people company at a nearby nursing home on weekends.
Understanding these basic principles of reasonable accommodations for assistance animals under the FHA and Section 504 will help you comply with the law, and will also ensure that everyone feels welcome in your community.
If you’d like additional information about how to handle conversations around assistance animals, download our guide. If you’d like to preview our new mini-course, Assistance Animals in Multifamily Housing, please request a demo.