How Service Animal Laws Affect Your Condo Association

When you live in a condominium, you are generally part of a condo association that creates rules and regulations for the condo owners. These are designed to create a more enjoyable environment in which to live. One common area that is usually regulated by associations is pets. The association may prohibit types of pets or sizes of pets. If you have a service animal, however, are you protected? Read on to find out what your rights are and how to appropriately deal with your association.

Service Animals Are Recognized Under the Fair Housing Act

If your condo association prohibits pets, they can't stop you from moving into the neighborhood with your service animal or make you give up your service animal. This is because service animals are not pets. They are working animals. Service animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act. This means that an association can't penalize you because you have a service animal.

So, even if your condo prohibits pets, you can still have your service animal, but what if the association only prohibits certain pets or sizes of pets? If your condo allows cats but not dogs, you don't have to give up your service dog for a service cat. Similarly, if the condo only allows dogs under 25 pounds, and your dog is 100 pounds, you don't have to get a smaller dog. These types of rules can be bent for your service animal because it is not technically a pet.  

Comfort Animals Are Another Type of Protected Animal

Service animals have been specially trained, such as a dog for a blind person, but there is another type of animal that is protected under the Fair Housing Act. These are comfort or assistance animals. Comfort animals don't require special training, and just about any type of animal can be a comfort animal. For comfort animals, the same rules apply as service animals. The association can't prohibit your animal or make you get one that fits their rules.

However, you can't just claim your pet cat is a comfort animal. You have to have a medical reason and a note from your doctor that says the animal is a comfort animal. Your doctor may say you need a comfort animal for many reasons. For example, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, your cat may give you comfort and makes you feel better.

The Association Has Some Rights Too

You and your service or comfort animal have rights, but so does the association. It may seem like it's none of their business why you need a service animal, but they have the right to request proof that you need the animal. A note from your doctor stating you need the service animal or comfort animal will probably suffice, however.

It's also allowed for the association to make you follow some rules regarding pets. Most likely, whether the association allows pets or not, they will make you walk your dog on a leash and clean up after your dog. The association can also hold you responsible for any damage your pet causes, and you may also get in trouble if the animal harasses another person.

Service animals and comfort animals are not considered pets, and they are protected under the Fair Housing Act, so your condo association cannot kick you out or make you give up your animal to continue living in the association. However, you are still responsible for your animal, so you can't just let your animal do whatever it wants. For more information about service animals and association rules and regulations, contact your condo association management company today.