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NAA and NMHC Reiterate to HUD the Apartment Industry’s Priorities Regarding Emotional Support Animals

HUD Emotional Support Animals

Today, the National Apartment Association (NAA) and National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) submitted a letter to Anna Maria Farías, HUD Assistant Secretary, Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity again urging the Department to issue new guidance as more clarity is urgently needed in the face of growing abuse of the law governing reasonable accommodation requests for emotional support animals (ESA).

From the letter:

“Property owners have seen a significant increase in reasonable accommodation requests for emotional support animals in recent years. The overwhelming number of requests that housing providers receive are to allow animals in no-pets buildings, grant exceptions to existing policies on prohibited breeds or weight restrictions or to avoid paying pet deposits or fees. Under the current regulatory framework, it is often difficult for the average on-site staff person to parse out legitimate requests from illegitimate ones.”

For four years, NAA and NMHC have engaged HUD with operational perspective and articulated compliance challenges experienced by rental housing providers. HUD must revise its guidance or take other steps to mitigate potential abuse and ensure that the benefit of reasonable accommodation applies only to those who legitimately need it.

NAA and NMHC urged the Department to consider the following industry priorities as it moves forward with revised guidance:

  1. Require that reliable documentation must come from a third party that has or had a therapeutic relationship with the requester.
  2. Affirm the right of housing providers to verify the authenticity of any submitted documentation.
  3. 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 the reasonableness of multiple animal requests.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 

NAA and NMHC will continue to monitor this situation closely, find opportunities to provide industry input, and keep members and affiliates apprised of developments as they occur.

For more information please contact Nicole Upano, NAA’s subject matter expert on emotional support animals and Director of Public Policy or visit our policy issue page on ESA issues