assistance (support & service) animals

Has the association received a request by a resident for an assistance animal (support, companion, service animal)?  This easy guide will walk you through how to respond.

Pet Restrictions and Assistance Animals

A request by a person for an exception to an HOA’s pet restriction to allow a resident with a disability to have an assistance animal is considered a request for a "reasonable accommodation" under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). 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”).  Persons with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation for service animals and other types of assistance animals, including support animals, under the FHA.

An association must comply with the FHA when assessing a request for a reasonable accommodation to keep an animal.  There are limitations regarding the type and amount of documentation an HOA may ask an individual with a disability to provide in support of an accommodation request for a support animal, including documentation of a disability (that is, physical or mental impairments that substantially limit at least one major life activity) or a disability-related need for a support animal when the disability or disability-related need for the animal is non-obvious and not known to the association.

An association is entitled to information that allows it to make a meaningful review and an informed decision on the request for the animal.  For example, an association can request a copy of a note from a health care provider verifying that the owner has disability, recommending the use of an assistance animal to treat the owner’s disability, and verifying that the animal is necessary for the person with a disability to use and enjoy the person's residence.  Such information must be kept confidential and may not be shared with other persons unless a person needs it in relation to the reasonable accommodation request.  An association cannot request copies of the medical records of the person with a disability  or more detailed information about the nature of the disability.

For more, see the questions and answers at Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act - Q & A.  Also, see HUD's FHEO-2020-01 notice regarding assessing a person’s request to have an animal as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act (pdf), which is intended to clarify and help “housing providers,” which include HOAs, respond to a request by a person with a disability to have an assistance (aka companion) animal.

Lying About Assistance Animal is Crime

Utah law makes it a crime for an individual to: (1) intentionally and knowingly falsely represent to another person that an animal is a service animal or a support animal; (2) knowingly and intentionally misrepresent a material fact to a health care provider for the purpose of obtaining documentation from the health care provider necessary to designate an animal as a service animal or a support animal; or (3) except for an individual with a disability, to use an animal to gain treatment or benefits only provided for an individual with a disability.  See Utah Code § 26B-6-805.

See also, Index, disability (discrimination based on disability); fair housing act; and discrimination.

Reasonable Accommodations under the Fair Housing Act - Q & A
Rights and Privileges of an Individual with a Disability. Utah Code Title 26B, Ch. 6, Part 8
Summary of Fair Housing Act (Federal)
United States v. Fox Point at Redstone Association, Inc., No. 2:11-cv-01069 (discrimination, assistance animal)
HOA resources and laws annotated
HOA resources and laws annotated