WASHINGTON, D.C. — Statement from the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association (NAA) on the release of new emotional support animal guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:
NMHC and NAA are pleased that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released new guidance clarifying the responsibilities of both rental housing providers and renters when it comes to reasonable accommodation requests for emotional support animals (ESAs) in housing.
The apartment industry strongly supports the rights of persons with disabilities to make reasonable accommodation requests so they may have equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. However, a lack of clarity in the law currently governing emotional support animals allows for abuse and imposes an unfair burden on property owners. This undermines the intent of the Fair Housing Act to help those truly in need of an emotional support animal. NMHC and NAA believe the new guidance is a step in the right direction toward providing a clearer understanding of ESA rules.
Prior to the issuance of this new guidance, it was often difficult for owners and operators to determine legitimate requests from illegitimate ones. HUD’s guidance will help rental housing providers mitigate abuse, ensure better compliance with fair housing laws, and, vitally, improve the ability of owners and operators to protect the rights of disabled persons to live with their service animals and emotional support animals.
Contained in the guidance is this:
Documentation from the Internet
Some websites sell certificates, registrations, and licensing documents for assistance animals to anyone who answers certain questions or participates in a short interview and pays a fee. Under the Fair Housing Act, a housing provider may request reliable documentation when an individual requesting a reasonable accommodation has a disability and disability-related need for an accommodation that are not obvious or otherwise known. In HUD’s experience, such documentation from the internet is not, by itself, sufficient to reliably establish that an individual has a non-observable disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal. By contrast, many legitimate, licensed health care professionals deliver services remotely, including over the internet. One reliable form of documentation is a note from a person’s health care professional that confirms a person’s disability and/or need for an animal when the provider has personal knowledge of the individual.
Information Confirming Disability-Related
Need for an Assistance Animal
- Reasonably supporting information often consists of information from a licensed health care professional –e.g., physician, optometrist, psychiatrist, psychologist, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or nurse –general to the condition but specific as to the individual with a disability and the assistance or therapeutic emotional support provided by the animal.
- A relationship or connection between the disability and the need for the assistance animal must be provided. This is particularly the case where the disability is non-observable, and/or the animal provides therapeutic emotional support.
- For non-observable disabilities and animals that provide therapeutic emotional support, a housing provider may ask for information that is consistent with that identified in the Guidance on Documenting an Individual’s Need for Assistance Animals in Housing (*see Questions 6 and 7) in order to conduct an individualized assessment of whether it must provide the accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. The lack of such documentation in many cases may be reasonable grounds for denying a requested accommodation.
To read HUD’s entire guidance notice, visit https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PA/documents/HUDAsstAnimalNC1-28-2020.pdf