Evaluating a Request for Assistance Animal

Step-by-Step Guide to Evaluating a Resident's Request to Keep Assistance Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) makes it unlawful for a homeowners association to refuse to make a reasonable accommodation that a person with a disability may need in order to have equal opportunity to enjoy and use a dwelling.  One common request HOAs receive is for a reasonable accommodation to the HOA's pet or no animal policy so that a person with a disability is permitted to have an assistance animal.

General Considerations

  • Pet rules do not apply to service animals and support animals.  Thus, associations may not limit the breed or size of a dog used as a service animal or support animal just because of the size or breed but can, as noted elsewhere,fn1 limit based on specific issues with the animal’s conduct because it poses a direct threat or a fundamental alteration.
  • An association may not charge a fee for processing a reasonable accommodation request.
  • An association may not charge a deposit, fee, or surcharge for an assistance animal.  An association, however, may charge an owner for damage an assistance animal causes if it is the association’s usual practice to charge for damage caused by residents.
  • Before denying a reasonable accommodation request due to lack of information confirming an individual’s disability or disability-related need for an animal, the association is encouraged to engage in a good-faith dialogue with the requestor called the “interactive process.”  The association may not insist on specific types of evidence if the information which is provided or actually known to the association meets the requirements of this guidance (except as provided above).  Disclosure of details about the diagnosis or severity of a disability or medical records or a medical examination cannot be required.

The FHA does not require approval of an assistance animal if doing so would constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or would result in substantial physical damage to the property of others. An association may, therefore, refuse a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal if the specific animal poses a direct threat that cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level through actions the individual takes to maintain or control the animal (e.g., keeping the animal in a secure enclosure). See FHEO Notice: FHEO-2020-01, p13.

An association may deny a request to keep an assistance animal if the association’s insurance carrier would cancel, substantially increase the costs of the insurance policy, or adversely change the policy terms because of the presence of a certain breed of dog or a certain animal because HUD will find that this imposes an undue financial and administrative burden on the association if HUD can verify that claim with the insurance company directly and if the association can’t find comparable insurance without the restriction. See June 12, 2006, HUD Memo.

See Question 8 regarding animals that are not common household animals.

Part I: Service Animals


The FHA requires an HOA to modify or make exceptions to policies governing animals when it may be necessary to permit persons with disabilities to utilize animals.

There are two types of assistance animals:

  1. service animals, and
  2. other trained or untrained animals that do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities (a “support animal”).

What is a service animal?

Under the ADA, “service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual 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."

First, we need to determine if the animal is a service animal. If it is not, we will determine if it is a support animal that needs to be accommodated.
1. Is the animal a dog?*

The animal is not a service animal, but may be a support animal that still needs to be accommodated. Click Next to continue to Question 4.

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HOA resources and laws annotated
HOA resources and laws annotated