HUD Issues New Guidance on Assistance Animals
A major challenge facing owners and operators of manufactured home communities involves reasonable accommodations for service and assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act. Sixty percent of the Fair Housing Act complaints being investigated by HUD are related to animal claims. For years, industry leaders have been asking HUD to update its rules on this topic. Recently it did so.
On January 28, 2020, HUD issued a press release announcing the new rules. As stated therein, “This new Assistance Animal Notice will help housing providers in this process by offering a step-by-step set of best practices for complying with the Act when assessing accommodation requests involving animals and information that a person may need to provide about his or her disability-related need for the requested accommodation, including supporting information from a health care professional.”
HUD said further it “is providing this guidance to help housing providers distinguish between a person with a non-obvious disability who has a legitimate need for an assistance animal and a person without a disability who simply wants to have a pet or avoid the costs and limitations imposed by housing providers’ pet policies, such as pet fees or deposits.”
The guidance provides best practices for complying with the Fair Housing Act and covers the determining the resident’s, the type of documentation the resident should provide (including, who should provide that information), what types of animals that should be considered for reasonable accommodations and some general considerations.
This guidance from HUD is the most comprehensive instructions ever issued on the reasonable accommodations for service and emotional assistance animals and the instructions contained therein should be incorporated into every community’s Fair Housing policies and procedures.
This guidance follows a November action whereby HUD officials asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate on-line companies providing certificates declaring a pet as an emotional assistance animal. Click here to read more about the FTC case.