On April 25, 2013 HUD published a notice clarifying the distinctions between “assistance animals” and “service animals” for purposes of compliance with the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Specifically, the notice indicates that the recently amended ADA’s more narrow definition of a “service animal” - “a dog trained to do work or perform tasks,” does not apply when determining compliance with the Fair Housing Act or Section 504, which requires reasonable accommodations for residents needing more broadly defined “assistance animals.”
Apartment properties are required to comply with both laws; places open to the public, such as leasing offices, are subject to the ADA while residential areas are covered by Fair Housing and Section 504.
The latter requires apartments with a “no-pets” policy to make reasonable accommodation and allow “assistance animals.” The HUD notice clarifies that although the most common assistance animal is a dog, other animals can also meet the needs of a disabled person and should be permitted.
The notice sets out conditions under which a property owner must provide the accommodation. Unchanged is the requirement that property owners can only request documentation of a disability if it is not readily observable; a blind resident needing a guide dog should not be asked for documentation.
This latest notice does not create new compliance obligations on property owners. Rather it seeks to address confusion caused by the 2010 ADA amendments which led some property owners to believe that they could restrict “service animals” to the more narrow ADA definition instead of the broader one contained in the Fair Housing Act.