Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
By Pamela Dittmer McKuen
Published June 25, 2017
Many condominium associations have found their pet bans
have no teeth.
That's because an increasing number of residents are requesting permission
to keep assistance animals due to physical or mental disability.
Associations have little choice but to grant the exceptions.
The trend is frustrating boards and managers, who suspect that many requests
"This seems to be the way that people are getting around
the 'no-pet' rule," said Thomas Skweres, regional vice
president at ACM Community Management in Downers Grove. "All
they need is a prescription from a doctor, in most cases,
for the animal to be given a 'reasonable accommodation.' The
number of assistance animals has grown considerably."
Assistance animals are sometimes called emotional support or
therapy animals. Unlike service animals, which are trained
to perform tasks, assistance animals mostly provide comfort
and companionship. They do not have to be dogs, but dogs are
Federal fair housing laws overseen by the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development permit assistance animals in
no-pet buildings if proper requests for accommodation are
"My opinion is that the law is being abused by people who
just want a pet," said association attorney Stuart Fullett
at Fullett Rosenlund Anderson in Lake Zurich. "This detracts
from the true intent, which is to help the disabled.
Unfortunately, with fraudulent uses, it raises suspicions on
"People find loopholes in the system," said Cathy Ryan,
president and chief executive officer at Property
Specialists in Rolling Meadows. "One homeowner was granted a
second support dog because the first support dog was
An increasing number of residents are requesting
permission to keep assistance animals due to physical or mental
disability. Associations have little choice but to grant the
exceptions. The trend is frustrating boards and managers, who
suspect that some requests are bogus.
Residents who seek assistance animals have a low bar to hurdle. They must
provide documentation from a medical professional that states the resident
has a disability and that the animal will help with that disability. The
resident does not have to divulge the specific disability or how the animal
HUD allows associations to make certain rules regarding the behavior of
assistance animals and hold their owners liable for any damage they cause.
However, associations cannot require the owner to pay a deposit, and they
cannot restrict animal breeds, sizes or weights.
"While the original intent of the law was probably for a good reason, the
regulations today all side with the owner," Ryan says.
Staying on the right side of the law can be tricky. Michael Carnahan, owner
and community association manager at RedBrick Property Management in
Lombard, said he turns every request over to the association's attorney to
"It's for risk control," he said. "We want to make sure we are not
discriminating against any protected class."
Fullett estimated 80 percent of his no-pet client associations rubber-stamp
the requests because they don't want to potentially spend time or money
fighting the issue, Fullett said.
Owners who chose to move into no-pet buildings, perhaps because of phobias
or allergies, are unsettled by their new four-legged neighbors, Ryan said.
When some owners can't live with animals and others must live with animals,
whose rights prevail?
A definitive answer won't be known until someone files a lawsuit.
Fullett peered into his legal crystal ball to predict an outcome:
"It will be a balancing issue," he said. "For instance, can the person's
allergies be treated with medication and to what extent can avoidance help?
Another consideration is how reasonable is the accommodation request on the
part of the person who has a disability? If I were to guess on the result,
the legitimate cases of assistance animals will prevail."
Owners must realize that when they move into an association, policies and
rules are subject to change, such as a no-pet building becoming a
pet-friendly building, Fullett said. Or a building that permits leasing
could later prohibit it.
"If you want to live completely pet-free, you probably should own a
single-family home," he said.