HUD provides guidance on assistance animals

CHICAGO (January 28, 2020) – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued guidance concerning assistance animals, also known as emotional support animals or companion animals. HUD Secretary Ben Carson says, “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 in account the concerns of housing providers. Today’s 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.”

IREM supports this guidance from HUD on the issue of assistance animals with respect to the ADA and the FHA. Ted Thurn, IREM’s Director of Government Affairs, says, “IREM supports the rights of persons with disabilities to request reasonable accommodation so they may have equal opportunity to housing. Until today, the lack of specific guidelines with respect to confirming legitimate requirements for an assistance animal has created the opportunity for abuse.”

Assistance animals are defined by HUD as follows: “Assistance animals do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, or provide emotional support for a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity or bodily function.” An assistance animal is not a pet.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires housing providers to allow reasonable accommodations for assistance animals. In general, property managers cannot refuse to make accommodations to allow a person with a disability the opportunity to use and enjoy their residence, while also keeping an assistance animal. But a lack of clarity with respect to assistance animals created opportunities for abuse, minimizing the very real role these animals play in supporting disabled persons.

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