NAA Emotional Support Animal Toolkit Now Available
The National Apartment Association (NAA) has recently released the “NAA Toolkit, Emotional Support Animals: A Practical Guide to Reasonable Accommodation Requests.” Property owners have seen a significant increase in reasonable accommodation requests for emotional support animals in recent years and are concerned about possible abuse. While NAA seeks legislative and regulatory solutions to address concerns, NAA felt it was important to provide members with resources giving practical guidance on this emerging issue.
As background, a lack of clarity in federal regulations opens the door for abuse and imposes an unfair burden on property owners, undermining the intent of the Fair Housing Act to help those truly in need of an emotional support animal. In cases where a property owner may request documentation on the disability-related need for an emotional support animal, the regulations allow for a broad range of individuals to provide the verification. These individuals include a physician, psychiatrist, social worker or other mental health professional.
Additionally, an individual certifying the resident’s need for an emotional support animal is not required to have an actual treatment relationship with the resident. In some cases, the documentation supplied to property owners is in the form of a letter purchased online for a fee. This documentation may be obtained with little or no contact with a mental health professional, other than a brief consultation, and not as a result of an actual treatment relationship.
In light of these concerns, NAA organized a working group of members, affiliated association staff and attorneys specializing in fair housing to collaborate on resources to help members navigate this complicated issues; the resources are compiled in the toolkit, including:
- The NAA/NMHC Fact Sheet on Emotional Support Animals, which provides overall background on this issue. It informs members on what NAA is doing to address their concerns;
- Relevant federal guidance from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice;
- Answers to frequently asked questions regarding reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals;
- Scripts for owners to use in training their leasing staffs;
- Sample reasonable accommodation and modification policies;
- Sample documentation forms for residents