Some pets are considered members of the family, while others are guard dogs that protect a home from break-ins. But certain pets provide a very specific and important role to pet owners — service animals. There are various types of service animals, and they can make enforcing pet policies tricky.
In part one of this series, we discussed general rules that condominium associations and homeowner associations (HOAs) can employ. Now, we will be discussing how condominium associations and HOAs can handle emotional support and service animals. If your board is ever concerned with how to proceed in a delicate situation like this, it could benefit from our Tampa HOA property management services.
Emotional Support and Service Animals
As stipulated by the Fair Housing Act (FHA), you must not discriminate against a resident based on a mental or physical disability. You must make “reasonable accommodations” for a resident with a service animal or emotional support animal even if you have a “no pets” policy in place or the animal is above the designated pet weight limit.
When a resident suddenly claims that their pet is an emotional support animal, they may be trying to take advantage of you. If you find a resident’s claim dubious, you can ask for documentation from a licensed mental health professional for proof. While you can require the resident to pay for any damages caused by an emotional support animal, you cannot charge a pet fee, ask about the disability, demand that the animal be registered or receive specific training, or refuse to provide housing in the event that insurance does not cover an emotional support animal.
With the above in mind, you must do your best to enforce the rules while being reasonable. Take a compassionate approach to pet owners in your community. An emotional support animal may be providing genuine comfort to an owner suffering from PTSD, or a certified service animal may be what saves a resident’s life in the event of an emergency. Additionally, it may not be worth it to risk violating federal law or paying legal fees to resolve a dispute with an otherwise great owner.
If a resident is violating the rules, try to work with them to find a solution. That may involve finding a new home for a pet or having the resident sign an agreement stating that no more pets will be acquired once the current pet passes away. Whatever approach you decide on, it’s important that your board is consistent when dealing with pets. Don’t bend the rules for one resident if you aren’t willing to do so for another. If you’d like your HOA policies reviewed to ensure that disputes over pets are avoided, please contact our Tampa homeowners association management service at Wise Property Management.