I took a call from a lawyer for a resident yesterday. The lawyer was upset because the resident had made a reasonable accommodation request for an emotional support animal that the leasing office team had denied. While the lawyer did not do work in the fair housing area, she had gone on-line and had done general research concerning the Fair Housing Act and specifically the portion of the law which provides for assistance to those who need service or emotional support animals. The call did not start well.
It was clear early on that she had just missed a critical component for all service and/or companion animals: the animal’s owner must have a disability. Indeed, the whole point behind service and companion animals is to assist those Americans with a recognized disability. To phrase it simply: if a resident is not disabled, he or she is not entitled to a service or companion animal.
Now, remember, many apartment communities are pet friendly and welcome animals. Yes, you may need to pay a pet fee and/or pet rent. And yes, some communities have pet size or breed restrictions. But if you want Rover or Fluffy to live with you, it can most likely happen.
Again, the point of a service or emotional support animal is to assist someone with a disability. As a management company, I don’t want (and am not entitled to) confidential health care information of our residents. If the disability is not obvious (such as an applicant in a wheelchair or a resident who is blind), all I want is a medical verification confirming: (1) the disability; and (2) a nexus (need) for the requested accommodation.
How did my call end with the lawyer for the resident yesterday? Once I explained the rationale and the applicable portion of the law, she understood completely. I do expect an amended medical verification form which my leasing office will appropriately review and respond to. If indeed the resident is disabled and there is a need for an emotional support animal, I suspect it will be approved.
But if you are not disabled, please don’t ask for a service or emotional support animal.
Just A Thought.