3 Criteria That Must Be Met In Regards To Assistance Animals

People with disabilities are involved in the majority of housing discrimination complaints, so the Grace Hill training tip of the week goes back to some basics on assistance animals.

By Ellen Clark

As a landlord or property manager, it is important to handle assistance animal accommodation requests properly

According to The Case for Fair Housing: 2017 Fair Housing Trends Report by the National Fair Housing Alliance, nearly 55% of all reported housing discrimination complaints in 2016 involved discrimination against people with disabilities.

This statistic is a reminder of how important it is to handle accommodation requests properly. Let’s review some of the basics.

Under the FHA and Section 504, individuals with a disability may be entitled to an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation in housing that places restrictions on or prohibits animals.

Remember, assistance animals include service animals, companion animals, and emotional support animals. They can be dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, or other types of animals.

 Examples of reasonable accommodation requests related to assistance animals

    • Requesting to have an assistance animal in a community or building that doesn’t allow pets
    • Requesting to have a 70 -pound dog in a community doesn’t allow dogs over 50 pounds
    • Requesting to have a pit bull in a community where pit bulls are a restricted breed

  3 Criteria That Must Be Met In Regards To Assistance Animals

Always review and verify the three criteria that must be met for a person to be protected by the FHA and Section 504 in regard to assistance animals:

    1. The person must have a disability
    2. The animal must serve a function directly relates to the person’s disability
    3. The request to have the animal must be reasonable.

3 Criteria That Must Be Met In Regards To Assistance Animals

Keep in mind that the FHA and Section 504 do not protect individuals who do not have disabilities, and they do not protect situations in which individuals train animals for use by other people.

This means, for example, that you would not be required to grant an exception to a no pet policy for a resident who does not have a disability but has a dog that keeps people company at a nearby nursing home on weekends.

Understanding these basic principles of reasonable accommodations for assistance animals under the FHA and Section 504 will help you comply with the law, and will also ensure that everyone feels welcome in your community.

If you’d like additional information about how to handle conversations around assistance animals, download our guide. If you’d like to preview our new mini-course, Assistance Animals in Multifamily Housing, please request a demo.


Recent Grace Hill training tips you may have missed:

7 Ways To Stay Out Of Trouble When Checking Criminal History

5 Ways To Protect Applicants, Residents And Employees From Sexual Harassment

How To Handle Suspicious Documentation For Assistance Animals

How A No Pet Policy Can Be Discriminatory

About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk.

Photo credit YakobchukOlena via istockphoto.com