Association board members should already know that the Fair Housing Amendments Act requires their association to provide reasonable accommodations from its rules, regulations and restrictions, in order to afford a disabled person equal opportunity to enjoy his or her home. And, requests for reasonable accommodation pets seem to be quite typical these days. But how, exactly, does an association verify that the pet is an actual service pet? Or should the association even ask for verification? Can an association demand proof that a dog is certified as a service dog?
The association in this article tried this and is now being sued. The New Jersey Division of Civil Rights director indicated in his finding that: “While a person requesting a reasonable accommodation may be required to document his or her disability and any need for an accommodation, as (Beckenstein) did in this case, the nature of (the association’s) requests for more information went beyond what is required (and) can be viewed as a denial of the accommodation.
How did the association cross the line? The association went beyond requesting information to verify the disability and the need for an accommodation. If faced with a reasonable accommodation request to allow a service pet, the board’s request for documentation should seek only the information that is necessary to establish that: (1) the person is disabled, and (2) the pet is needed because of the disability. Beyond that the association should not venture.