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When 'No Pets' Doesn't Apply

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By : Jamie Mathwig    99 or more times read
Increasingly, condo associations that ban pets or specific kinds of pets are coming up against laws that allow for assistance animals to reside with their owners. This is an important aspect to the U.S. Fair Housing Act that you should study if you, as a real estate agent, are taking on a client with an assistance animal who desires to buy real estate that is governed by strata rules. Since most assistance animals are dogs, most of the amendments to the law have been for dogs.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Rehabilitation Act, Section 504 (1973) and The Fair Housing Amendments Act (1988). According to these three laws, disabled Americans have the right to keep their assistance dogs with them in their place of residence, whether or not the residence has a ‘no-pets' or 'no-dogs' policy. The disability must be severe enough to limit the home owner's ability to engage in normal life activities, such as blindness, deafness, paralysis, mental disabilities, etc. The dog must be specifically trained to aid the owner in performance of those tasks necessary for a comfortable life. The dog must be under control at all times.

Despite a growing acceptance of assistance dogs beyond guide dogs for the blind or dogs for the deaf, the law varies from state to state. Many states have not had the Americans with Disabilities Act tested in court for assistance dogs and many people are not aware that laws have been changed to further accommodate assistance dogs other than guide dogs.

When taking on a disabled client with an assistance dog, you should sit down with them and discuss the challenges that can come with making an offer on a condo or home with a HOA that has restrictive pet policies. If your client has decided on a property that has pet restrictions that would otherwise prohibit the assistance animal, you should discuss drafting a letter that addresses the condo board and requests permission to live in the property with the assistance animal, despite the no-pets rule.

The letter should cite the law and give full particulars of the type of dog, the reason it is required and any certifications that the animal has earned. Local and national assistance dog organizations can help you help your client to draft such a letter. Include copies of letters from the client's physician, therapist, psychiatrist, counselor or other professional, stating that the client is, indeed, disabled and requires the dog to mitigate the effects of the client's disability.

Helping clients with disabilities navigate the maze of legalities concerning assistance animals can ensure that your client's real estate search and purchase is made easier and a more positive experience. Contact your local or national assistance animal organization to find out more about this issue.
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