What HOAs Should Know About Assistance Animals

By Dawn Bauman
Image Description

Close to 80 million U.S. households have an animal in their home. Pets come in all shapes and sizes and provide companionship to their respective families, but there also are animals that play an important role in the lives of people with disabilities and mental health issues by assisting with day-to-day activities or giving emotional support.

In honor of May being National Pet Month, we offer a summary of what constitutes an assistance animal, laws and regulations that apply to their ownership, and the approach community associations can take to rules and regulations specific to these animals.

Federal laws such as the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as state and local laws govern assistance animals in community associations (commonly known as homeowners associations, condominiums, and housing cooperatives.) Assistance animals are categorized in three groups:

  • Service animals. Specifically trained to work or perform tasks for individuals with physical disabilities.
  • Therapy animals. Provide psychological or physiological benefit to individuals or groups in a clinical environment.
  • Emotional support animals. Provide comfort to people with mental health issues.

Associations are required by the FHA to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities who request an assistance animal. Any animal that provides emotional support or physical benefits to an individual can be an assistance animal without training required. The FHA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Communities must recognize the rights of individuals with disabilities to receive the assistance they need within their home and comply with federal laws guaranteeing these rights. CAI’s Guide to Assistance Animals can help association boards learn the differences between assistance animals and applicable federal, state, and local statutes.

In recent years, there has been a rise in incidents where a pet is misrepresented to access federal protections granted only to service animals. In response, more than 30 states have passed laws that make it a crime to fraudulently claim a person has the right to be accompanied by a service animal or to fraudulently represent the pet as a registered service animal.

HOAresources.com explores questions and comments from community association members living in condominiums, homeowners associations, and housing cooperatives. We then assemble trusted experts to provide practical solutions to your most commonly asked, timely questions. We never use real names, but we always tackle real issues. Have a question or comment about your community association? Submit here for consideration:

Get More Expert Advice

Join CAI’s online community for access to the industry’s most in-demand community association resources.

Thousands of your peers are sharing advice.

Dawn Bauman

Dawn Bauman, Senior Vice President of Government & Public Affairs. As CAI’s lead advocate for federal and state legislative and regulatory affairs, Dawn works with volunteer leaders throughout the country serving on CAI legislative action and government affairs committees to advocate for strong and sensible public policy for America’s community associations.