“No dogs allowed” is the mantra for many condominiums and residents who sneak in lap dogs, and are subject to punishment. But what if a dog is specifically ‘ordered’ by a physician to aid with the resident’s mental health? What’s a condo association to do?
Recently, a Florida federal court claimed a condominium association violated federal law when it failed to give a temporary accommodation to a resident with an animal needed for the health and emotional support of the resident. In the case cited, the condo did allow smaller dogs under 25 lbs., but when the owner brought in a larger dog the association demanded the dog be removed. The owner provided a doctor’s note prescribing the dog to help relieve Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but the association requested additional information about the owner’s mental health and treatments. And that’s when the lawsuit began.
The owners sued the Association, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act.
Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the condo (and dog) owner, claiming that the Association violated the Fair Housing Act when it requested further information. The Court stated that the Association never gave a “temporary exemption” to the owner during its investigation, and demanded that he remove the dog in 30 days, unless he could provide the requested information.
The dog stays. “Associations should be aware that they are not compelled to accommodate every request for support animals, but should offer temporary exemption during investigation,” said Joshua Krut, an attorney and partner withWeiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza Cole & Boniske. “If the exemption is made permanent, the condo owner must comply with the appropriate rules and restriction that are then associated with pet ownership. Associations have every right to enforce those rules, even if they pertain to only one resident.”
Joshua Krut is a Partner at Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Boniske, P.L., where he serves as Chairperson of the Community Association, Club & Resort Practice Group. The Firm has offices in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables and Mr. Krut can be reached at 954.763.4242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.