Must emotional support animals obey condo rules?
Question: Can an association make rules regarding “emotional support animals” (ESA) – such as excessive barking, noise, restricted to a certain area for doing their business, always on a leash, things like that? Our co-op has a NO PETS bylaw, which we have not changed. These ESA owners claim they can do whatever they want and no rules apply. Is that true? – Mary Ann
Answer: No, it is not true. We live under the rule of law, and rules always apply. The key is knowing which rules apply to a given situation.
Associations must make reasonable accommodations to people who need the assistance of an emotional support animal. These are not pets – they are companion animals that provide therapeutic benefits to people with verifiable mental or psychiatric disabilities.
The person being supported must submit an application to the association, and the association should make whatever reasonable accommodations are necessary for that resident’s well-being. This does not mean that no rules apply. The community can expect proper behavior from the emotional support animal and make reasonable rules concerning the animal’s behavior both within the unit and in the common areas.
To be clear, making reasonable accommodations does not mean the resident gets more rights than other neighbors, just that the person should be treated fairly, balancing the needs of the community’s other residents.
Years ago, I wrote a column cautioning associations to bend over backward to avoid problems with this “hot potato” issue. That advice still stands, with the caveat that the law and society are starting to stabilize regarding support animals and taking a more balanced approach between the rights of those in need and the people around them.
About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.
© 2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.