This morning on the way to work I heard about a pig that caused quite a disruption over the holiday weekend. Apparently, a passenger brought a pig aboard a US Airways plane as her companion. The pig started running back and forth, causing a ruckus while its owner tried to control its behavior and clean up after the animal. Eventually, the flight crew members decided the pig had to leave because of its disorderly behavior. Why was the pig allowed on the plane in the first place? Because the passenger needed it as her emotional support pet.
Emotional support or “comfort” animals might also be required to be allowed in community associations, even if the association has a no-pet policy. The Fair Housing Amendments Act (“FHAA”) prohibits associations from discriminating against certain categories of people, one of them being people who are disabled. The term “disability” is defined broadly under the FHAA and includes a “mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities”. People who are disabled are entitled, under certain circumstances, to reasonable accommodations from an association’s rules and restrictions. And, one common reasonable accommodation is an emotional support animal if the animal is necessary to afford the disabled person equal opportunity to use and enjoy his/her dwelling. A board that fails to grant a reasonable accommodation when required, could be exposed to severe penalties.
Do you understand when reasonable accommodations are necessary and when the FHAA applies? If not, you could be subject to a claim for discrimination. Our article, Discrimination: An Overview of the Federal Fair Housing Act and a Study of Discrimination Claims Filed Against Associations will assist you in understanding the FHAA, the most common discrimination claims filed against associations, and some proactive ways an association can minimize potential discrimination claims.