On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, HUD released new guidance on "Assessing a Person's Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act." This supersedes the previous guidance issued in 2013. The rule outlines what information a housing provider can request and consider when deciding to grant a reasonable accommodation.
Assistance animals can be incredibly helpful to people with disabilities. But in recent years there has been a significant uptick in people abusing this part of the Fair Housing Act by trying to pass their pet off as an assistance animal. HUD is attempting to address this fraud, and ensure that the accommodations are available for those who need them.
The guidance includes a kind of flow chart for the decision process a housing provider may use to make the determination. It includes language that the licensed medical professional should have personal knowledge of the individual and their disability. HUD also states that if the animal is not a common household pet, "the requestor has the substantial burden of demonstrating a disability-related therapeutic need for the specific animal or the specific type of animal." Lastly, the guidance confirms that the assistance animal must be needed to address a disability that "substantially limits at least one major life activity or major bodily function."