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Do housing co-ops need to accept emotional support animals?

Housing co-ops are a way to make homeownership accessible to a broader segment of the population. Co-ops offer shared spaces and amenities and a feeling of community for residents while imposing specific standards for those living in the community. A co-op can be a wonderful place to live for people in a variety of circumstances.

However, there can sometimes be challenges related to communities where many people live in close proximity and potentially influence each other’s property values. Some co-ops, for example, limit or forbid pets because of the damage they can cause to the property. The smell, allergens and noise they generate could also factor into pet restrictions at housing co-ops. However, allowing certain types of animals can be a fair housing issue for those with disabling medical conditions.

Do co-ops need to make exceptions for those with emotional support animals?

Federal rules require appropriate accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes the right of those with challenging medical conditions to request and receive accommodations in certain circumstances. Housing is one aspect of life governed by the ADA. Landlords, those building properties and community associations generally need to accommodate those with disabilities. They also should not factor in someone’s medical condition and to determinations about whether they can live somewhere or not.

A resident or applicant who needs an emotional support animal typically has a right to expect accommodations. A co-op generally cannot charge additional fees or deposits for the presence of an emotional support animal. While emotional support animals do not have the training and registration required of service animals, they do have a degree of protection under the law.

That being said, co-ops and other housing authorities can decline to accommodate emotional support animals if they are dangerous or have damaged facilities. Generally speaking, straightforward breed restrictions or refusals to accommodate owners and residents may not be appropriate, but refusals on a case-by-case basis are theoretically legal.

Emotional support animals and similar concerns can be very complex issues for housing co-ops to address. Learning more about federal and state statutes may benefit those involved with a housing co-op to feel uncertain about how to handle an unusual situation that could lead to allegations of unfair housing practices.