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Consult an attorney or local legal professional with any questions about reasonable accommodations, cost to the landlord for reasonable accommodations, verification of the disability-related basis for the request and before denying a request.

Emotional support animals

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a type of assistance animal for a person with a disability that is recognized as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. The assistance animal is not a pet, according to HUD, and in general, the landlord or other housing provider cannot:

  • Require a tenant to pay a pet deposit or pet fee.
  • Limit the assistance animal based on general assumptions about certain species or breeds.
  • Ask about the nature or severity of the disability, or unreasonably delay the request.
  • Limit access for the ESA. Generally, the assistance animal should be allowed wherever any other tenants are allowed, including full access to the dwelling unit and common areas.
  • May be asked to submit reliable documentation (typically from a medical doctor, treating therapist, or other knowledgeable and reliable third party) of the disability and disability-related need for the ESA if their disability is not known or readily apparent.
  • Engage in the interactive process and make an evaluation of the ESA to determine if the specific assistance animal poses a direct threat of harm or would cause substantial property damage, based on actual and objective evidence.
  • Deny the request for the ESA if their insurance carrier would cancel, adversely change the policy terms or substantially increase the costs of the insurance policy.
  • Require that the tenant clean up after the ESA and cover any costs to repair damage to dwelling and common areas, so long as both assistance animals and pets are held to the same standard.

What is reasonable modification?

A reasonable modification is a physical change to the property that gives the resident equal opportunity to access the property and its amenities. These modifications could include:

  • A ramp leading to the entryway

How to handle a reasonable modification

Establish procedures for how applicants and residents make reasonable accommodation or modification requests and how you respond to them. Even a verbal request may trigger reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification duties, and a delayed response may be equivalent to a denial.

Consult an attorney or local legal professional with any questions about reasonable modification issues, when determining who’s responsible for the cost, when verifying the disability-related basis for the request and before denying a request.

*Properties that receive certain forms of federal financial assistance may be subject to other federal anti-discrimination laws. Properties including places of public accommodation – such as rental offices or retail space – ericans with Disabilities Act. You should consult with a lawyer to determine the full range of anti-discrimination laws that apply to your property.

Max occupancy: Although the Fair Housing Act does not expressly prohibit occupancy standards limiting the maximum number of occupants, some occupancy standards can have a discriminatory effect. You should be careful if you set a maximum occupancy for your rental. Use the word “persons” when referring to occupants and never specifically limit the number of children. You may not want to count Infants under the age of 1 as occupants.

No matter what, the landlord should not ignore the request, and they need to engage in what is called an “interactive process” to consider the request and discuss the tenant’s proposed accommodation. If the landlord believes the request is unreasonable because it would impose an undue financial and administrative burden, or it would fundamentally alter the nature of the landlord’s operations, or granting the request would impose a direct threat to the health or safety of other tenants based on actual and objective evidence, then it may be denied. However, as part of the interactive process, the landlord should strive to offer possible alternative accommodations that may address those concerns.

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