The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced updated guidance regarding the use of service animals and emotional support animals as it relates to Fair Housing Act issues.
The issue of support animals might not seem to be related to the purchase of real estate with an FHA home loan, not at first.
But Fair Housing rules do affect all stages of the house-hunting process including renting a home while you are looking for one to purchase with the help of a realtor, or on your own.
The HUD announcement discusses a need for reasonable accommodation in housing for those who need service animals or emotional support animals. The agency has released an “Assistance Animal Notice” designed to help all parties understand how to best comply with Fair Housing Act laws in this area.
Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, adds, “For decades, HUD has recognized the rights of individuals with disabilities to keep an assistance animal in the home where it is a reasonable accommodation,”
Since housing issues don’t have one-size-fits-all solutions, additional clarity seemed necessary for Fair Housing Act policy.
Those who need support animals will need to review or have the information reviewed for them to better understand the HUD position on both service animals/emotional support animals, and under what circumstances an animal is considered a pet and not a support animal. In some cases, training or other factors may be needed to distinguish a working animal from a pet.
Farias says of this necessity, “a person with a disability that affects a major life activity might need an animal that provides support in ways that is not readily apparent to housing providers.”
“For example, veterans or senior citizens may need the assistance or therapeutic support of an animal to help them cope with the symptoms of a disability that affects a major life activity.”
A major detail of this press release for those who need assistance animals? Clarification on what species may be permitted to be used as service animals or emotional support animals and when a non-traditional resource may be acceptable under the law.
The press release says the new guidelines offer, “information for both housing providers and persons with disabilities regarding the reliability of documentation of a disability or disability-related need for an animal that is obtained from third parties, including internet-based services offering animal certifications or registrations for purchase.”
The new rules define what is considered a service animal and under what circumstances non-tranditional service animals may be permitted. There is also basic information on the kind of training that is generally required for a service animal to carry that designation.
We’ll examine details of the new policy in depth in future blog posts. You can learn more about the rules at the HUD official site.