Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pet Owners Fighting Housing Bans With "Nuclear Option"

Pet owners who move into apartments or condos have to deal with all kinds of restrictions. Many ban pets altogether or have weight limitations on dogs. Other large new projects allow pets when they first open, but clamp down later when homeowner associations takeover. When the original owners move, they may not even know that they can't transfer all their "grandfathered" rights to the new owner or renter.
Exceptions were often made for Service Dogs owned by the blind or severely handicapped.
Now, legal precedents have expanded the Service Dog rules to include the emotional support of  "Assistance Animals."  Faced with choosing between their dream home and their forever pet, dog owners are beginning to resort to a "Nuclear Option."
While it can't hurt to have a doctor's note prescribing the need for the animal, Americans With Disability(ADA) and Fair Housing regulations state that
When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work.
This option for Emotional Support Animals (ESA) could conceivably be applied to almost any animal.

The owner can be charged for actual damage done by the animal, but they may not require the applicant to pay a fee or a security deposit in order to keep the animal.

If this process becomes seriously abused by pet owners, we can expect pushback from the owners of multifamily homes and apartment complexes. Since Fair Housing regulations are federally mandated, appeals of the substantial fines may ultimately wind up in the Supreme Court.


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