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Do Pets Needed For Emotional Support Need To Follow Co-op Regulations?

Published on April 15, 2024 by Darren Jorgensen
Stories involving emotional support animals are frequently seen in news, magazines, and other platforms. These stories generally relate to their accommodation rights. This raises some serious questions about how one can define an emotional support animal and what is considered a reasonable accommodation for a person with an emotional support animal.

These incidents mainly involve housing co-ops. Co-ops, or cooperatives, are apartment buildings owned by a corporation where residents buy shares in a particular apartment. These shares entitle the purchaser to a long-term proprietary lease for the space. Cooperative buildings have their own Co-op Board of Directors, who follow internal laws set forth by federal regulations. However, they must follow federal regulations if they don’t want to face a discrimination lawsuit.

Pets Need To Follow Co-op Regulations

Introduction

In a recent incident, a resident question in the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times gained considerable attention when a co-op resident in Westchester sought information regarding the balance of the rights of people to have emotional support animals with our right to live peacefully. “We live in a small, no-pets Westchester County co-op. Our upstairs neighbors were recently allowed to acquire an emotional support dog. The dog runs back and forth for 30 minutes at a time and frequently scratches a bedroom rug, waking us up throughout the night. We shared our concerns with the neighbors, who seemed receptive, but the problem persisted.”

The writer responded, “As long as this dog isn’t biting people, it’s probably not going anywhere. Support animals are protected for accommodations under county, state, and federal fair housing laws. Your co-op board could be liable for discrimination if it is found to be hostile to this dog owner, and so could you.”

Moreover, according to the FHA, the building cannot charge extra fees to this resident or limit the dog’s size or breed. Focus any complaints you have on elements of the situation that violate your building’s rules, such as unreasonable noise. The writer further suggested using a decibel reader to show how loud the noise is and how long it lasts to establish that it is unreasonable. Then, make a complaint to your co-op board so the sound can be mitigated.

Jonathan Roman, a real estate lawyer who practices in Westchester, says, “Emotional support animals are protected, but they still need to obey any house rules.”

Niki Khindri, associate attorney at the Manhattan law firm Wagner, Berkow & Brandt, represents co-op and condo boards and owners, says. “Most co-ops have rules about pet ownership, and it is within a board’s authority to restrict ownership of pets. However, boards are bound by federal, state, and city discrimination laws that say service and assistance animals for disabled residents must be reasonably accommodated. This means a co-op must make an exception to any no-pet policy for emotional support animals and service animals.”

What Laws Protect Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which is designed to prevent housing providers from discriminating against people who need emotional support animals.

Under Fair Housing rules, ESAs are recognized as a type of assistance animal that should get a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability. ESAs are not considered normal pets under Fair Housing rules and are thus exempt from restrictions a housing provider may place on pets.

The Fair Housing Act, with certain limited exceptions, applies to all housing in every state, including rentals, co-ops, and condominiums. To qualify for the benefits and protections afforded by the FHA, you must obtain an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare provider. A valid ESA letter from a licensed professional is the only way to qualify for an emotional support animal under the FHA.

Moreover, under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers and the landlord cannot impose breed, weight, and size limitations on ESAs. They cannot charge fees or deposits in connection with ESAs. Moreover, landlords cannot request information regarding a tenant’s condition or medical history.

Can The Landlord Deny My Support Animal In Any Case?

A landlord can only deny an ESA if accommodating it would impose an “undue financial burden” on the landlord or if the landlord determines that the ESA poses a threat to the health or safety of others. Under HUD guidance, housing providers must consider a tenant’s ESA request and answer within ten days.

What Documents Must I Provide To The Co-op Board For My ESA?

A necessary document that legitimizes the ESA and gives them all legal rights is an ESA letter written and signed by a licensed mental health professional. A legitimate ESA letter will be written on the licensed mental health professional’s official letterhead, including their licensing information and signature. The Co-op Board can verify that the LMHP wrote the ESA letter by contacting the LMHP.

A Co-op Board cannot request emotional support animal registration papers or certificates if an ESA letter is provided. The Fair Housing Act does not require registering your ESA with any database.

Posted in: News

About the Author

Patricia Thompson
Darren Jorgensen
Darren M. Jorgensen has a fondness for all animals, though dogs especially, have a huge home in his heart. He enjoys quilting, making handcrafted soap and bodyworks and anything that produces practical products. Jorgensen lives with his own service dog who doubles as an Emotional Support Animal. He gets it.

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