HUD published Notice FHEO-2020-01 providing guidance on the obligation of housing providers under the Fair Housing Act to allow people with disabilities to have assistance animals as a “reasonable accommodation.”
There are two types of assistance animals, service animals and support animals. These are animals that do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities. The guidance provides housing providers with best practices for complying with the Fair Housing Act when assessing requests from people who have disabilities to keep animals in their homes as a reasonable accommodation. Individuals with disabilities and advocates can also benefit from familiarity with the Notice.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation someone with a disability may need to have equal opportunity to enjoy and use a dwelling. One common request housing providers receive is for a reasonable accommodation related to a provider’s no-pet or no-animal policies from people with disabilities so they may use assistance animals in their housing, including in public and common-use areas.
Assistance animals are not pets; they are either service or support animals. A housing provider may not exclude service animals or support animals or charge a fee or deposit for them.
The Notice defines a service animal as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability.
“Work or tasks” do not include emotional support; however, another type of animal other than a dog may provide emotional support, comfort, or well-being as a reasonable accommodation. Certain impairments might not be observable but may form the basis of a request of an emotional support animal. For an animal to be eligible for consideration as a support animal, it must be one that is commonly kept in homes, such as a dog, cat, small bird, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, other rodent, fish, turtle, or other small, domesticated animal. The Notice does not consider as common household animals reptiles (other than turtles), barnyard animals, monkeys, kangaroos, and other non-domesticated animals. Someone may request a “unique” animal as a support animal but must provide extra documentation as described in the Notice.
The Notice states that it should be read together with HUD’s regulations prohibiting discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (24 CFO Part 100, Subpart D) and the HUD/Department of Justice (DOJ) Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodation under the Fair Housing Act,
A housing provider may also be subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and therefore should also refer to DOJ’s regulations implementing Title II and Title III of the ADA at 28 C.F.R. Parts 35 and 36, and DOJ’s guidance on service animals, Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA and ADA Requirements: Service Animals
Upon first reading, fair housing and disability advocates have deemed the Notice acceptable. These advocates had been working with HUD for years, and most of their input seems to be included.
Notice FHEO-2020-01 is at: https://bit.ly/2v6NBDQ
The HUD/DOJ Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodation under the Fair Housing Act is at: https://bit.ly/396X4cG
DOJ’s Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA is at: https://bit.ly/395m2t0
DOJ’s ADA Requirements: Service Animals is at: https://bit.ly/36TikBr