NMHC and NAA submitted a letter to Anna Maria Farías, HUD Assistant Secretary of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, on March 15 again urging the Department to issue new guidance on emotional support animals (ESA). More clarity is needed in the face of growing abuse of the law governing reasonable accommodation requests for emotional support animals.
For four years, NMHC and NAA have engaged HUD with operational perspectives and articulated compliance challenges experienced caused by unclear ESA rules. We urge HUD to revise its guidance or take other steps to mitigate potential abuse and ensure that the benefit of a reasonable accommodation applies only to those who legitimately need it.
NMHC and NAA urged the Department to consider the following industry priorities as it moves forward with revised guidance:
- Require that reliable documentation must come from a third party that has or had a therapeutic relationship with the requester.
- Affirm the right of housing providers to verify the authenticity of any submitted documentation.
- Clarify that individuals requesting multiple support animals are required to show a separate and distinct disability-related need for each animal and that owners may consider the size of the unit to determine reasonableness of multiple animal requests.
- Specify that the resident is liable for any damages or disruptions caused by the animal (including eviction for noncompliance with the lease), although assessments of deposits or fees for an assistance animal remain prohibited.
- Include a safe harbor for housing providers that they should not be liable for personal injuries caused by an animal that was approved in good faith.
NMHC and NAA hope that new guidance will be forthcoming soon. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor this situation, find opportunities to provide industry input and keep members apprised of developments as they occur.
For more information please visit our Fair Housing webpage.