NAR: HUD Offers Guidance to Sniff Out Fake Assistance Animal Requests
Property owners have struggled with how to enforce no-pet policies on their properties with the growing number of renter requests for assistance animals. That’s why the housing market is welcoming the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s newly released guidance and clarity on how to comply with the Fair Housing Act when receiving a request for an assistance animal.
News reports in recent years have grown accusing some renters of using dubious third parties over the internet to buy certifications or registrations that say they need an emotional support animal.
Under HUD’s new guidelines, released Tuesday, landlords and property managers now can require reliable verification of the tenant’s need for an assistance animal and can require documents other than an online certification.
A person with a disability may require the assistance of an animal to help do work, perform tasks, or provide therapeutic emotional support. The requested accommodation must be met if it affects that person’s major life activity and serves as a reasonable request. HUD’s new guidance offers housing providers step-by-step practices for complying with the Fair Housing Act when such requests are made. It includes guidance on assessing accommodating requests and information needed from the applicant about their disability-related need for the accommodation.
“This law exists to protect millions of Americans with disabilities who rely on the support of their assistance animals—like those living with depression, military veterans suffering from PTSD, and countless other deserving individuals,” says Vince Malta, president of the National Association of REALTORS®. “But as NAR has stressed to HUD over recent months, these protections are jeopardized when a small minority seeks to exploit weaknesses in the system.”
NAR welcomed HUD’s new guidelines for moving to stop fraudulent use of assistance animals while protecting the rights of those who require one.
HUD’s guidance offers landlords a tool to navigate requests and ensure that reasonable accommodations are provided while complying with fair housing laws. The guidance also includes information on the type of animals that are usually appropriate as well as best practices for when the requested animal is not a typical one used in accommodation situations.
“Countless Americans rely on assistance animals to fill a void, providing individuals with disabilities with the means to have a home that supports their quality of life,” says HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “In my many discussions with housing providers and residents impacted by the need for assistance, I recognized the necessity for further clarity regarding support animals to provide peace of mind to individuals with disabilities while also taking into account the concerns of housing providers. The announcement responds to the ambiguity surrounding proper documentation for assistance animals with clarity and compassion to provide an equal opportunity for a person living with a disability to use and enjoy their home.”