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The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued a press release announcing updated guidance regarding the use of service animals and emotional support animals in the context of the Fair Housing Act.

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HUD Issues Updated Guidance on Service Animals

February 12, 2020

HUD Issues Updated Guidance on Service Animals
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued a press release announcing updated guidance regarding the use of service animals and emotional support animals in the context of the Fair Housing Act.

Service animal issues come up frequently when it comes to rental units, and while someone purchasing a typical suburban home may not encounter a problem? What about those buying property that requires signing a homeowner’s association or condo owner’s association covenants and bylaws? Service animal issues could definitely be a factor there.

And don’t forget that access to rental housing is important for some during their house hunting process; any discrimination or Fair Housing Act issues that may come up for these people in the rental process can seriously affect their ability to find and purchase real estate.

The HUD news release addresses the need for reasonable accommodation in housing for those who need service animals or emotional support animals. The agency has released an “Assistance Animal Notice” designed to help all parties understand how to best comply with Fair Housing Act laws in this area.

The HUD Secretary is quoted in the press release saying the agency needed to provide “more clarity” about these issues. Today’s announcement responds to the ambiguity surrounding proper documentation for assistance animals with clarity and compassion to provide an equal opportunity for a person living with a disability to use and enjoy their home.”

 Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, adds, “For decades, HUD has recognized the rights of individuals with disabilities to keep an assistance animal in the home where it is a reasonable accommodation.” 
 
Farias says housing is a unique need, “...and a person with a disability that affects a major life activity might need an animal that provides support in ways that is not readily apparent to housing providers. For example, veterans or senior citizens may need the assistance or therapeutic support of an animal to help them cope with the symptoms of a disability that affects a major life activity.”

One of the most important details of this press release for those who need assistance animals is naturally clarification on what species may be permitted to be used as service animals or emotional support animals. 

The press release says the new guidelines offer, “information for both housing providers and persons with disabilities regarding the reliability of documentation of a disability or disability-related need for an animal that is obtained from third parties, including internet-based services offering animal certifications or registrations for purchase.”

We will discuss the substance of the new policy in future articles. You can learn more about the rules at the HUD official site.

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