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Reasonable Accomodation Request

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Spike

Don't Berate,- Educate!
 
 
Barked: Thu Jan 22, '09 12:22am PST 
So, I've been having trouble in reguards to my animals and my landlord (and my doctor). I have a cat (ESA), a Chihuahua medical alert dog, and a new puppy who is my SDiT. I have always lived with family up until a few months ago. I gave the reasonable accomodation request paperwork to my doctor over six months ago. He failed to fill it out and then moved without a forwarding address or number. He just last week got back to the office he used to be at, and they told him that I needed the paperwork. He responded by sending me the WRONG form. On top of that, I can't actually read it. So, this is why I haven't sent in the paperwork to the landlord yet.

I've started seeing a "counselor" (can't remember official title) who uses a nurse practitioner to prescribe meds and notes, etc. The problem is that she can't see me for a while. Additionally, the form that I need to submit asks how long the person has been treating me. So, my first question... Do it matter, in terms of legality and the form, how long she has been seeing me?

Next question. Legally, do I even have to have this form? I mean, can I just submit a RAR form without whoever's verification, and would the landlord then have to honor it?

Also, in the spot that says "the RAR isnecessary so I can," what do I actually put? I have my animals for psychiatric reason, and other than "it helps me" I have no clue what to put. Additionally, I don't want to put anything that specifically reveals what is wrong with me. So what do I put?

Is there anything else I need to include when I submit this to the landlord?

If I continue to have problems with the landlord, (ie, they give us an eviction notice), what recourse do I have? So I have anything without the note from the "professional" if I just submit the RAR? What should I do if it comes to this?

Any information anyone could give me reguarding this would be greatly appreciated.
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Scooter

Work hard; Play- harder.
 
 
Barked: Thu Jan 22, '09 12:49am PST 
First, it isn't a reasonable accommodation request, it is an ESA letter. Housing falls under the Fair Housing Act, not the ADA. I'll be honest, the landlord may want to know why you require 3 pets. I've heard of them being understanding of having an ESA and a SDIT, but at some point, most will draw a line.

A reasonable accommodation request is for a work environment.
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Spike

Don't Berate,- Educate!
 
 
Barked: Thu Jan 22, '09 1:02am PST 
The top of the form says "Request for Reasonable Accomodation," so I just assumed...
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Spike

Don't Berate,- Educate!
 
 
Barked: Thu Jan 22, '09 1:40am PST 
I tried to edit my post, but I couldn't figure out how... But, I wanted to say that everything that I've been reading about the Fair Housing Act also calls it a "reasonable accomodation" to have ESAs or service animals.

Talking about discrimination here... "a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford [a person with a disability] an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling."

Edited because I can't type.. And I guess it times out...? Nyrr. o.O

Edited by author Thu Jan 22, '09 1:42am PST

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Tesla

SDIT - Ontario, Canada
 
 
Barked: Thu Jan 22, '09 5:29am PST 
Are they actually allowed to deny you access to housing with any pet? Legally, I mean, in your area. My boyfriend (not disabled, just loves dogs) lives in a "no pets" house, but figured out that it is actually illegal here to refuse to allow any tennant to have pets, so he just signed a form saying he's responsible for damage to the house and voila: case closed. (I stay there with Tesla a lot of the time and he's got a border collie-mix).
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Sabrina- 2000~2012

To break- injustice we- must break- silence
 
 
Barked: Thu Jan 22, '09 7:06am PST 
Yup, Tesla, in the US there are lots of places that don't allow pets. Personally I wouldn't live in one, even if I only had my SD. It is so much less stressful not to have the other tennants upset about you having a dog, and have everyone be understanding of dogs. Plus, that way when your SD retires and you get a new pup to train, or if your SD/SDIT has to be washed out, you don't have to worry. Because yeah they do start asking questions about why you need more than one ESA-- I've heard of one ESA and one SD being more accepted (especially if the ESA is a retired SD) but more than that and the landlords tend to fight it more and believe it less (not saying I feel this way about anyone here, just the perception that the landlord and other tennants have)

I've never actually gone through this situation, but I can give my input on your questions. I do not think it matters how long the doctor has been seeing you. It might help if they'd been seeing you longer, but I don't think that is going to make or break your case.

I believe you do need to have this form. When asking for accomodations in the workplace or in a rental situation, you do have to prove that you have a disability and that you need the particular accomodation. You do this by showing information that a doctor has filled out. This information should not include your diagosis, but if memory serves me coorectly it needs to include that you have a disability, describe how this impacts you (this is so the landlord can suggest alternative accomodations that might work-- not really so applicable in your situation but moreso when the tennant wants to lower all the lightswitches in the house or something), and say that you need this particular accomodation to mitigate your disability.

I don't know what to put for is necessary so I can... It will be different for everyone. For me it would be so I can leave the house, so I can go without a human aide to watch me 24/7, so I can dress myself, so I can feed myself etc. Just think how your disability impacts your life, and write that down, would be what I would do.

I don't know what else you might need or what to do if they refuse, but I would suggest calling an agency that advocates for people with disabilities in your area. They can help you out with these questions a lot better than I can, and can provide attorney recommendations if you end up needing one.
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Spike

Don't Berate,- Educate!
 
 
Barked: Thu Jan 22, '09 7:39am PST 
Thanks for the input. I've been trying to read as much as I can about it, but everywhere I've seen basically says the same thing... Just that you are allowed to have them. I can't seem to find any reference to how many you have, etc. I do know of a woman (not in this building, though) that has three cats as her ESAs. I guess to prove that she needed them, her MHP just said that it would cause her considerable harm to disallow her to have them. I think I would fit into that category, but I'm not sure if that would hold up in court.

It is interesting, though. The only person in the building who doesn't actually have animals is the guy below us, and he doesn't really care. It was some lady who didn't even live in the building that started all this. But, yea, everyone else in the building has at least one animal, and the landlord doesn't bug them. And I know at least one of them is "just" a pet. *sigh* I don't get it.

But I did actually find documentation in the writing of the laws that allows my "counselor" (whatever her title actually is) to write the notes. So, we're seeing her today, and I am significantly less stressed. ^.^ I'm still going to have the NP write one, too, but it should be enough for the landlord.
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SHADOW - RIP 14 June- 2014

BORN TO SERVE
 
 
Barked: Fri Jan 23, '09 1:08am PST 
http://www.bazelon.org/issues/housing/infosheets/fhinfosheet6.html

Fair Housing Information Sheet # 6
Right to Emotional Support Animals in "No Pet" Housing
Advocates and professionals have long recognized the benefits of assistive animals for people with physical disabilities, including seeing eye dogs or hearing dogs who are trained to perform simple tasks such as carrying notes and alerting their owners to oncoming traffic or other environmental hazards. Recent research suggests that people with psychiatric disabilities can benefit significantly from assistive animals, too. Emotional support animals have been proven extremely effective at ameliorating the symptoms of these disabilities, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, by providing therapeutic nurture and support.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act protect the right of people with disabilities to keep emotional support animals, even when a landlord's policy explicitly prohibits pets. Because emotional support and service animals are not "pets," but rather are considered to be more like assistive aids such as wheelchairs, the law will generally require the landlord to make an exception to its "no pet" policy so that a tenant with a disability can fully use and enjoy his or her dwelling. In most housing complexes, so long as the tenant has a letter or prescription from an appropriate professional, such as a therapist or physician, and meets the definition of a person with a disability, he or she is entitled to a reasonable accommodation that would allow an emotional support animal in the apartment.

What exactly is a reasonable accommodation?
Discrimination under the FHA includes "a refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford [a person with a disability] an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling." 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B). So long as the requested accommodation does not constitute an undue financial or administrative burden for the landlord, or fundamentally alter the nature of the housing, the landlord must provide the accommodation. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and several courts have explicitly stated that an exception to a "no pets" policy would qualify as a reasonable accommodation. See, e.g., Bronk v. Ineichen, 54 F.3d 425, 429 (7th Cir. 1995) (balanced against landlord's economic or aesthetic concerns as expressed in a no-pets policy, deaf tenant's need for accommodation of hearing dog is per se reasonable); Fulciniti v. Village of Shadyside Condominium Association, No. 96-1825 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 20, 1998) (defendant condominium association had not presented any evidence suggesting that the tenant's assistive animal created a threat or disturbance, and therefore violated the FHA by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation); Occupancy Requirements of Subsidized Multifamily Housing Programs, HUD, No. 4350.3, exhibit 2-2 (1998) (it would not constitute a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program or activity to require the Owner to make an exception to the no pets rule so that tenant could keep assistive animal, where "assistive animal" includes emotional support animals for people with chronic mental illness).

Depending upon the type of housing in which the tenant resides, his or her right to a reasonable accommodation will be grounded in one, or any combination, of the following statutes:

Statute Covered Housing Elements of Reasonable
Accommodation Claim
Fair Housing Act
Applies to virtually all forms of housing, whether for sale or rent. The exceptions include (a) buildings with four or fewer units where the landlord lives in one of the units, and (b) private owners who do not own more than three single family houses, do not use real estate brokers or agents, and do not use discriminatory advertisements.
(1) Tenant has a disability;
(2) Landlord/Housing Authority knows about disability;
(3) Reasonable accommodation may be necessary to afford tenant an equal opportunity to use and enjoy his or her dwelling; and
(4) Reasonable accommodation would not constitute an undue burden or fundamental alteration.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973, § 504
Applies to any program that receives federal assistance, such as public or subsidized housing (although a landlord who only accepts Section 8 rental assistance is not subject to § 504).
(1) Tenant has a disability;
(2) Tenant was excluded from and denied participation in services, programs, and activities;
(3) Exclusion was because of disability; and
(4) Reasonable accommodation would not constitute an undue burden or fundamental alteration.

ADA, Title II Applies to any state or local government, or its instrumentalities, regardless of federal financial assistance. This would include local housing agencies, such as your public housing authority. (1) Tenant has a disability;
(2) Tenant was excluded from and denied participation in services, programs, and activities;
(3) Exclusion was because of disability; and
(4) Reasonable accommodation would not constitute an undue burden or fundamental alteration.

Is the tenant a "person with a disability"?
In order to qualify for a reasonable accommodation under the FHA, § 504, or the ADA, the tenant must meet the statutory definition of having a "disability." The statutes recognize three broad categories of disabilities: (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as walking, seeing, working, learning, washing, dressing, etc.); (2) a record of having such an impairment; or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment.

Being able to substantiate one's disability is critical in requesting a reasonable accommodation. In the event that a landlord does not allow the emotional support animal, and the tenant pursues legal action, the court will require evidence of the tenant's disability. For an example of a case in which the court rejected an emotional support animal claim for lack of evidence of a disability, see Housing Authority of New London v. Tarrant, 1997 Conn. Super. LEXIS 120 (Conn. Super. Ct. Jan. 14, 1997) ("[G]iven an appropriate factual predicate, mental handicap may warrant reasonable accommodations, including the keeping of an animal in a public housing complex. However, in the instant case, that factual predicate is missing and the defendant has failed in her burden of proving that reasonable accommodations must be made.").

Request an exception to the landlord's no pet rule
If one needs an emotional support animal to ease the symptoms of a disability (as defined above), he or she should request a reasonable accommodation, in writing, from the landlord, manager or other appropriate authority. The request should state that the tenant has a disability and explain how the requested accommodation will be helpful. In addition, the tenant should include a note from his or her service provider, such as a doctor or therapist, verifying the need for the support animal (see sample letter, below, as an example). Note that the tenant need not disclose the details of the disability, nor provide a detailed medical history.

Establishing that the support animal is necessary in order to use and enjoy the residence is critical. Courts have consistently held that a tenant requesting an emotional support animal as a reasonable accommodation must demonstrate a relationship between his or her ability to function and the companionship of the animal. See, e.g., Majors v. Housing Authority of the County of Dekalb, 652 F.2d 454 (5th Cir. 1981); Housing Authority of the City of New London v. Tarrant, 1997 Conn. Super. LEXIS 120 (Conn. Super. Ct. Jan. 14, 1997); Whittier Terrace v. Hampshire, 532 N.E.2d 712 (Mass. App. Ct. 1989); Durkee v. Staszak, 636 N.Y.S.2d 880 (N.Y.App.Div. 1996); Crossroads Apartments v. LeBoo, 578 N.Y.S.2d 1004 (City Court of Rochester, N.Y. 1991).

Although the landlord is entitled to ask for supporting materials which document the need for an emotional support animal, federal law does not require the tenant to provide proof of training or certification of the animal. The two courts that have addressed this issue directly - the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the U.S. District Court of Oregon - have held that the only requirements to be classified as a service animal under federal regulations are that the animal be (1) individually trained, and (2) work for the benefit of an individual with a disability. For a more detailed discussion, see Bronk v. Ineichen, 54 F.3d 425 (7th Cir. 1995) and Green v. Housing Authority of Clackamas County, 994 F.Supp. 1253 (Or. 1998).

If it is not an undue burden or a fundamental alteration, the landlord must grant the requested accommodation
In assessing a tenant's request for emotional support animal as a reasonable accommodation, the landlord is entitled to consider the administrative, financial, or programmatic repercussions of allowing an animal onto the premises, including the potential disturbance to other tenants. Typically, a landlord will have a difficult time establishing that an emotional support animal constitutes a fundamental alteration or undue burden. As noted earlier, in its internal regulations governing federally assisted housing, HUD specifically states that allowing an assistive animal does not constitute an undue burden. See Occupancy Requirements of Subsidized Multifamily Housing Programs, HUD, No. 4350.3, exhibit 2-2 (1998) (explaining that allowing an assistive animal is not a fundamental alteration).

If the emotional assistance animal is particularly disruptive, or the tenant fails to take proper measures to ensure that the animal does not bother other tenants, however, the landlord may be justified in denying the accommodation or ultimately filing for an eviction. See, e.g., Woodside Village v. Hertzmark, FH-FL Rptr. ¶ 18,129 (Conn. Sup. Ct. 1993), in which the court found that a federally assisted housing complex did not violate the Fair Housing Act by evicting a resident with mental illness for failure to walk his dog in designated areas and to use a pooper-scooper.

If the requested accommodation is unreasonable, the landlord may propose a substitute accommodation. In so doing, the landlord should give primary consideration to the accommodation requested by the tenant. According to the Department of Justice ADA Technical Assistance Manual, II-7.1100:

It is important to consult with the individual to determine the most appropriate auxiliary aid or service, because the individual with a disability is most familiar with his or her disability and is in the best position to determine what type of aid or service will be effective.

This view has been endorsed by a number of courts within the context of other reasonable accommodation claims under the FHA, ADA and § 504. See, e.g. Sullivan v. Vallejo City Unified School District, 731 F.Supp. 947, 958 (D.C. Cal. 1990).

In the event that a landlord suggests an alternative accommodation, the tenant can reject it if he or she feels it is inadequate. In Green v. Housing Authority of Clackamas County, 994 F.Supp. 1253, 1256, the federal district court of Oregon rejected defendant housing authority's proposed substitute accommodation of flashing smoke alarm and doorbell for a hearing assistance dog. In granting the tenant's motion for summary judgment, the court found that the dog could alert the tenant to phone calls, cars in the driveway, visitors, and smoke alarms, no matter where he was in the house, and that the strobe lights were only installed in the bedroom and hallway, and were therefore less effective in ameliorating the effects of the tenant's hearing impairment.

The landlord will allow an emotional support animal, but wants to charge an excessive deposit....
The Housing & Urban-Rural Recovery Act of 1983 protects the right of tenants in federally assisted housing for the elderly or persons with disabilities to have a pet, and further provides that the landlord is entitled to charge a deposit for that pet to cover any resulting damage to the property. However, if a pet is more properly characterized as a "service animal," the tenant should be exempt from the deposit. According to HUD's internal regulations:

Service animals that assist persons with disabilities are considered to be auxiliary aids and are exempt from the pet policy and from the refundable pet deposit. Examples include guide dogs for persons with vision impairments, hearing dogs for people with hearing impairments, and emotional assistance animals for persons with chronic mental illness.

Occupancy Requirements of Subsidized Multifamily Housing Programs, HUD, No. 4350.3, 4-13(b) (1998).

Few courts have addressed the imposition of pet deposits on the vast majority of tenants who are not protected by the Housing and Urban-Rural Recovery Act. The only case to specifically consider the legality of charging a pet deposit for an assistive animal involved a service dog belonging to a tenant with a physical disability. See HUD v. Purkett, FH-FL ¶ 19,372 (HUDALJ July 31, 1990), in which a HUD administrative law judge issued an injunction barring the owner and manager of an apartment complex from charging a tenant a deposit for her service dog. It could be argued that a landlord would be likewise prohibited from imposing such a deposit for an emotional support animal. Generally, under the FHA, ADA, and § 504, landlords are required to incur some expenses in making reasonable accommodations, so long as those costs are not an undue financial burden. See United States v. California Mobile Home Park Management Co., 29 F.3d 1413, 1416 (9th Cir. 1994), in which the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit held that, "the history of the FHAA clearly establishes that Congress anticipated that landlords would have to shoulder certain costs involved [in making reasonable accommodations], so long as they are not unduly burdensome."

When a tenant requests an emotional support or other assistive animal, the landlord should not assume, without justification, that the animal will cause excessive, financially burdensome damage. In the event that a tenant's assistive animal does cause significant damage, that tenant should certainly be held financially liable. However, it would contravene the purpose of the statutory protections afforded people with disabilities to allow a landlord to charge a deposit at the outset, in the absence of any significant damage. Just as it would be inappropriate to charge a tenant who uses a wheelchair a deposit for potential damage to carpeting, it would be similarly imprudent to demand a deposit from a tenant who uses an assistive animal.


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Sample Letter from a Service Provider


[date]




Name of Professional (therapist, physician, psychiatrist, rehabilitation counselor)
XXX Road
City, State Zip

Dear [Housing Authority/Landlord]:

[Full Name of Tenant] is my patient, and has been under my care since [date]. I am intimately familiar with his/her history and with the functional limitations imposed by his/her disability. He/She meets the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Due to mental illness, [first name] has certain limitations regarding [social interaction/coping with stress/anxiety, etc.]. In order to help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance his/her ability to live independently and to fully use and enjoy the dwelling unit you own and/or administer, I am prescribing an emotional support animal that will assist [first name] in coping with his/her disability.

I am familiar with the voluminous professional literature concerning the therapeutic benefits of assistance animals for people with disabilities such as that experienced by [first name]. Upon request, I will share citations to relevant studies, and would be happy to answer other questions you may have concerning my recommendation that [Full Name of Tenant] have an emotional support animal. Should you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,




Name of Professional
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Spike

Don't Berate,- Educate!
 
 
Barked: Fri Jan 23, '09 1:26pm PST 
Wow, Shadow, that's a lot of info. ^.^ Thank you.
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Sweetie the- Smartest Dog

www.SweetietheSm- artestDog.com
 
 
Barked: Fri Feb 1, '13 7:01pm PST 
This document explains it all. Also, research 'assistance animals" and discrimination on www.justice.gov
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