COACH's Pop Quiz!
Q: A resident asks you to waive your standard pet deposit of $1,000 so she can keep a dog as an emotional support animal. If she provides you with documentation of her disability and need for the dog, do you have to grant her request as a reasonable accommodation?
A: Yes, according to the Justice Department, which recently announced the latest settlement in a string of fair housing cases involving assistance animals.
Earlier this month, the owners and manager of a Washington community agreed to pay $25,000 to resolve allegations that they refused to grant a reasonable accommodation to waive a $1,000 pet deposit for a tenant with mental disabilities who needed a dog as an emotional support animal. Allegedly, they refused to grant the waiver despite numerous attempts by the resident to provide documentation of her disability and her need for the emotional support animal.
The complaint also claimed a pattern or practice of discrimination based on a policy to allow reasonable accommodations for specially trained service animals, but not for emotional support animals. Allegedly, the owners and manager refused to consider accommodation requests unless residents had their physician complete forms that threatened to require the physician to defend the information provided in court.
“The Fair Housing Act ensures that persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement. “This includes providing reasonable and necessary accommodations to persons who need assistance animals to help them with their disabilities. The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws that protect the rights of persons with disabilities.”