In January 2020, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development released updated guidelines pertaining to Emotional Support Animals (“ESA”) under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”). These new guidelines materially altered the previous guidelines relating to emotional support animals by changing the documentation requirement for emotional support animals and by changing the type of animal permitted to generally be an emotional support animal.
1) Documentation Requirement Change
Under the updated guidelines, housing providers are no longer required to make reasonable accommodations to any individual who has obtained a certificate requiring an emotional support animal from a non-certified or non-health care provider. If an individual requests a reasonable accommodation with documentation from a website for a non-certified or non-healthcare professional, the housing provider is permitted to request additional documentation which reasonably supports the requirement for the emotional support animal.
2) Animals Commonly Kept in Households
The new guidelines state that for animals commonly kept in households, reasonable accommodations should almost always be permitted. Under the FHA, animals commonly kept in households are dogs, cats, small birds, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, other rodents, fish, turtles, or other small domesticated animals. If the individual requesting a reasonable accommodation is asking for an accommodation and has a unique animal, then the requester has a substantial burden to show that the unique animal is necessary to the specific disability of the requester.
If you have any questions regarding the new FHA guidelines, read our related article here, or give us a call!