New York City has many apartment buildings with a no-pet policy, and it may seem obvious that guide dogs for the blind are excepted from such rules. However, people with other disabilities are often helped by service and emotional-support animals. If an individual has a legitimate medical need for a service animal, then the person should be allowed to keep it despite a building’s no-pet policy, but there may be resistance from the building owner.
The applicable laws are the federal Fair Housing Act, and the Human Rights Laws of New York State and New York City. The city law is the broadest, covering “physical, medical, mental or psychological” impairments. If a landlord or co-op or condominium board challenges the need for the service animal, a doctor’s note will be required at the very least, and depending on the situation, the individual may need to do more to show the connection between the disability and the service animal. In order to deter fraudulent requests for waivers of the no-pet policy, some building owners may require that the dog be registered as a service animal with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Building owners are permitted to ask questions about the evidence an individual submits. Many building owners want to do the right thing and are simply looking for proof of a connection between the disability and the need for the service animal. However, if a request is unfairly denied, or penalties such as extra insurance are required as a condition of accepting the animal, then a a tenant or owner of a co-op or condominium unit may file a discrimination complaint with the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
For more information about our legal services, visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.