[NOTE: This article first appeared in the Fall 2011 Edition of Hyatt & Stubblefield, P.C.'s "The Client Letter"]
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") filed charges against a homeowners association and its property management company for refusing to accommodate a veteran who required an emotional support dog due to a disability resulting from his war service. The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
According to the HUD charges, the association required the disabled resident to pay a $150 registration fee for the dog, provide proof of liability coverage, and sign a medical release for the association to obtain his medical records. The resident provided medical documentation of his need for the assistance animal and obtained liability insurance, but he refused to give the association access to his medical information or to pay the registration fee. The association then began levying fines against the unit for non-payment of the registration fee. HUD asserts that the Fair Housing Act requires that reasonable accommodations be made to no-pet rules for persons with disabilities who need support animals. HUD also asserts that requiring a disabled person to pay a registration fee for a service animal, obtain liability insurance, or provide access to medical records is prohibited by the Act. The case is currently pending.