New HUD Guidance on Reasonable Accommodations / Assistance Animals

Regulation | January 28, 2020 | by Linda Couch

On January 28, HUD issued new guidance, FHEO-2020-1, to clarify “how housing providers can comply with the Fair Housing Act when assessing a person’s request to have an animal in housing to provide assistance because of a disability.”

On January 28, HUD issued new guidance, FHEO-2020-1, to clarify “how housing providers can comply with the Fair Housing Act when assessing a person’s request to have an animal in housing to provide assistance because of a disability.”

The guidance, from HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, is immediately effective (January 28, 2020) and addresses, in part, the fact that Fair Housing Act “complaints concerning denial of reasonable accommodations and disability access comprise almost 60% of all [Fair Housing Act] complaints and those involving requests for reasonable accommodations for assistance animals are significantly increasing.” The guidance goes on to say that most HUD charges of discrimination against a housing provider involve the denial of a reasonable accommodation to a person who has a physical or mental disability that the housing provider cannot readily observe.

From the preface, the guidance “provides housing providers with a set of best practices for complying with the [Fair Housing Act] when assessing requests for reasonable accommodations to keep animals in housing, including the information that a housing provider may need to know from a health care professional about an individual’s need for an assistance animal in housing. This guidance replaces HUD’s prior guidance, FHEO-2013-01, on housing providers’ obligations regarding service animals and assistance animals. In particular, this guidance provides a set of best practices regarding the type and amount of documentation a housing provider may ask an individual with a disability to provide in support of an accommodation request for a support animal, including documentation of a disability (that is, physical or mental impairments that substantially limit at least one major life activity) or a disability-related need for a support animal when the disability or disability-related need for the animal is non-obvious and not known to the housing provider.”

The 19-page guidance, which should be very helpful to housing providers, includes two sections. The first is about accessing a person’s request to have an animal as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. The second section provides guidance on information that an individual seeking a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal may need to provide to a housing provider about their disability-related need for the requested accommodation, including supporting information from a health care professional.