ASSISTANCE ANIMALS & FAIR HOUSING Any animal necessary because of a disability is called an assistance animal. Assistance animals can be service animals (an animal trained to perform a particular task for a person with a disability); emotional support animals (animals that provide support for a person with a disability just by their presence); and any of a number of other categories including companion animals, therapy animals, comfort animals, etc. The Fair Housing Act requires that you make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, including allowing a person with a disability to keep an assistance animal in their housing. To be a reasonable accommodation, the need for the assistance animal must have a direct link to the person’s disability.
HOW ARE ASS I TANCE AN I MALS TREATED D I FFERENT LY THAN PETS? Legally, assistance animals are not pets; however, you are able to enforce general pet rules related to leash regulations, pet waste disposal and safety hazard or nuisance regulations. Your community cannot, however, charge pet fees, pet rent, pet deposits, or other monetary amounts once an accommodation has been granted to allow the presence of an assistance animal because of a disability. Requests for reasonable accommodations involving animals often include unique questions or situations. WHATDOCUMENTATION IS REQUIREDTOACCEPT AN ASSISTANCE ANIMAL AT MY COMMUNITY? An individual may submit a letter froma healthcare provider as verification. Pinnacle recommends completing the standard form whenever possible to ensure consistent application of policy. However, if the documentation submitted provides the same information that would be obtained through use of the Pinnacle form, you should simply accept the documentation provided, assuming you have no objective reason to believe it is fraudulent, insufficient, or inaccurate. If an individual submits requests for multiple animals, obtain verification of the specific need for more than one animal. The verifier, for example, a healthcare provider, may be informed that the individual already has one or more other animals, and should be asked why there is a specific need for any additional animals. Properties are allowed to ask questions of the person providing the verification if those questions are related to determining the disability-related need for the accommodation. It is important to understand that no questions may be asked regarding the nature, identity, or severity of the disability. WHAT I F SOMEONE REQUESTS MORE THAN ONE ASS I STANCE AN I MAL ?
WHAT I F AN ASS I STANCE AN I MAL DOESN ’ T MEET THE GU I DEL I NES OF THE K I NDS OF PETS WE AL LOW AT OUR COMMUN I TY? Assistance animals are not subject to a community’s breed, weight or size restrictions. These restrictions may continue to be applied to any pet animals, but must not be applied to any assistance animal. CAN AN I ND I V I DUAL CHANGE THE STATUS OF A “ PET ” TO AN “ ASS I STANCE AN I MAL ” I F THEY HAVE ALREADY S I GNED A LEASE AND HAVE A PET POL I CY I N PLACE? If a request is received for an animal that was previously considered a pet, the law does not require any money already collected in monthly fees for the pet to be refunded, but the property must stop charging monthly fees or rent once the request is approved. Any pet deposit must be refunded promptly after the determination that the animal is necessary as an accommodation to a disability is made. Yes. Acoommodation requests for animals in housing which is normally pet-free must be treated the same as requests made for housing that is pet-friendly. In the event of competing disabilities -- for example, a person with a severe allergy to animals living next door to a person with an assistance animal -- any conflict must be handled at the Regional Property Manager level or above. You are not required to make decisions as to which person is “more disabled” or which person “needs” an accommodation more. You should never discuss an individual’s disability- related needs with another resident or applicant. CAN ASS I STANCE AN I MALS BE ACCEPTED I NTO A BU I LD I NG DES I GNATED AS PET- FREE?
WHERE CAN I F I ND HELP I F I HAVE ADD I T I ONAL QUEST I ONS? It’s important to note that federal and state laws regarding assistance animals are varied and subject to change. Work with your supervisor and/or legal counsel if you have any questions regarding reasonable accommodations for animals at your property. As a resource for this course, you will find a downloadable version of Pinnacle’s Reasonable Accommodation policy and related request and verification forms.
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