Homeowners’ associations and condominium associations required by law to make “reasonable accommodations” for their disabled residents and the public. What is a reasonable accommodation? That depends on the facility and the resident’s needs.
What does the law require?
The Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) requires you to make reasonable accommodations that allow disabled residents or homeowners to use their property fully. This could include upgrades made to units or common areas to make them more accessible. It could also include exceptions to HOA agreement guidelines about pet ownership if a resident has a service animal trained to help them with their day-to-day tasks.
You may also be bound by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if you have a pool, an onsite rental office or another facility that is open to the general public. While this act does not apply to existing structures built before the ADA took effect, you will need to consider these requirements if you make upgrades to parking lots, sidewalks or buildings.
What should you do about support animals?
Some condo associations prevent residents from having pets. While your residents’ need for the assistance of a trained service animal may be a straightforward request, handling requests for emotional support animals could be more of a gray area. You can ask questions about their need for an animal, but you cannot ask for a specific diagnosis.
Guidance from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) clarifies that animals like dogs and cats are distinct from other animals that are not typically found in homes. For example, if a resident wants to have a support animal usually identified as livestock, they can be asked to demonstrate how this support animal meets their need.
Can you refuse a request?
Your ability to refuse a resident’s request depends on the exact circumstances. If it would be prohibitively expensive or they cannot demonstrate their need to have a specific animal in their residence, their request for accommodation may not be considered reasonable.
The best way to determine whether you can refuse a request or suggest an alternative is to discuss the issue with an attorney. Your lawyer can help you navigate any relevant legal requirements and ensure that you find a fair solution for both your association and your residents.