bulldog comforting human owner"

8 Things You Should Know About Emotional Support Dogs in Florida

bulldog comforting human owner"
I found this photo on the internet. And it appears to belong to briannealfitness.org.

First, let me preface by writing that I am so happy that pet lovers, those who are disabled and those who are in need of pet emotional support (and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll agree with me that we are ALL in need of some type of emotional support), have found a technical loophole of some sort!!! Let me correct that…. I am thrilled!!  I’ve been dealing with pet-friendly real estate in Miami and Broward since 2004, and am witness to a very slow progression of a change-in-attitude to no-pet policies. Personally, I don’t trust anyone that does not feel some sort of compassion for animals. That motto has never failed me.

I am in the process of writing an article for Yahoo! about this topic, so I decided to write a quick blog post today. So when is it OK to have pets in a no-pet-building in Florida? Let’s go over some pointers:

  1. An emotional support animal is defined as a pet that provides therapeutic benefits to its owner.
  2. No matter if your landlord or the condominium’s association has a no-pet policy, with proper documentation, you may absolutely have a the right to have a pet. Disabilities include emotional issues, and so emotional support pets are permitted as well.
  3. The Fair Housing Act requires that housing providers, such as condominiums and homeowner’s associations make reasonable accommodations for residents with disabilities. This includes landlords as well. So if you’re a tenant, and you have developed an emotional disability of some sort, or if you are physically disabled, guess what? Your landlord is also required to make provisions with certain limited exceptions. Basically, what this means, is that the landlord and/or association is required by law to allow you to have an emotional support animal, even with a NO-PET POLICY!
  4. It is within your landlord and/or homeowner’s association’s right to ask for documentation to verify your need for an emotional support animal. Documentation includes: a note or certification from your physician or mental health professional.
  5. However, you are NOT REQUIRED to disclose the details of the disability or provide proof of your pet’s training or certification!!!! 
  6. If you are deemed to be in need of an emotional support dog, the landlord or association is NOT PERMITTED to charge an additional pet deposit, BUT, they may hold you responsible if your pet caused any damage. My advice is, (1) take pictures while living in the property and as you’re moving out, or of an unforseen accident or occurrence that may be your pet’s fault, you want to make sure that your landlord or association does not make more out of it than it is, (2) document any repairs needed to be done before you move into a property, and (3) always correspond via email, or in writing, verbal will not hold in court or help you end a dispute favorably!
  7. In rare occasions, landlords and/or associations may assert their rights to request your pet’s removal or to evict you, if let’s say you can’t keep your pet under control or your pet poses a danger to others. This is total BS, and I would not worry about this if I were you. Why? Because most landlords and associations risk you filing discrimination lawsuits against them. I’d advise them to consult with an attorney before trying to pull off an erroneous move such as this.
  8. If you believe that you’ve been wrongfully denied housing or rights under the Fair Housing Act, you should file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The HUD regional office for Florida is located in Atlanta, GA. Their phone number is: 800-440-8091.

Here’s a guide to the U.S. Department’s Disability of Rights Laws. If you have any tips or additional laws that you know about, please share them below in the comment section. If you live in Florida, and are having any kind of trouble with your landlord or association, I highly recommend that you contact Attorney Marcy LaHart. She is probably the most qualified (in my opinion) attorney who specialized in animal law in Florida. She has a stellar reputation. She was instrumental several years ago in helping me with a case I was working on. If anyone can help, or guide you in the right direction, it’s Atty LaHart.

Join my Facebook page for more updates, and perhaps to help me bring more attention to this antiquated policy. I hope that collectively we can encourage homeowner’s associations to ease up on no-pet policies.

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