Can a Condo Association Deny an Emotional Support Animal?

girl caresses a dog and they support their head on some stairs

Having an emotional support animal in Florida can be a great way to live with emotional or psychological disabilities. However, living in a condo comes with its own set of rules, and an ESA may or may not be allowed in the condos owned by a condominium association.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) says it is illegal for any housing provider to discriminate against someone based on their disability, but what about their pets? What if a condo has a “no pets allowed” rule that applies to all tenants? Fortunately, with help from Florida condo attorneys, you can get help determining if your pet qualifies as an emotional support animal and if you can live peacefully with your ESA while following your condo’s rules and regulations.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

An ESA, or emotional support animal, is much more than a pet that makes you happy. As defined by Florida Statute Chapter 760.27(1)(a), “Emotional support animal” refers to “An animal that does not require training to do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, or provide therapeutic emotional support by virtue of its presence which alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.”

In a nutshell, this means that your emotional support animal does not have to do specific tasks like a service animal would. Their presence alone can help alleviate symptoms of a person’s disability. These disabilities might include, but are not limited to:

  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The presence of an ESA can be just as beneficial to its owner as any type of therapy or medication. Your ESA can provide mental and emotional support, comfort, and companionship to help alleviate the symptoms of your disability.

Emotional Support Animal Vs. Service Animal

It is important to distinguish between an emotional support animal and a service animal. Service animals are specially trained to do specific tasks for the disabled person, such as guiding a visually impaired person, alerting someone who has epilepsy of an impending seizure, or alerting someone of changing heart rate with POTS.

ESAs, on the other hand, provide comfort and emotional support without needing any special training or certification. While it is easier to qualify for an ESA, it also means that not all ESAs are accepted fairly easily in public places or condos. You will need to provide documentation. You might need help to take your ESA to areas like the airport, restaurants, and shopping centers, among other areas.

Denying an Emotional Support Animal

Fortunately, ESAs can be accepted by condo associations under certain circumstances. Condo owners with an ESA should first contact their condo association’s board and explain why they need an emotional support animal to alleviate the symptoms of their disability. Some associations might not require any additional paperwork, while others will require specific paperwork as outlined in the federal Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 

Chapter 760 states that if a person’s disability-related need for an emotional support animal is not readily apparent (for instance, it is not obvious you suffer from anxiety or PTSD), you will need to provide information that reasonably supports your need for emotional support animals in Florida condos. According to Florida ESA laws. Documentation can include: 

  • Information identifying the particular assistance or therapeutic emotional support provided by the specific animal from a health care provider. Your provider must have knowledge of your disability and be able to accurately reflect your need for an ESA.
  • Other supporting documentation for a disability, such as a disability letter from the VA, a letter from a government assistance authority stating you qualify for disabled housing, and other similar documents.
  • Additional documents for more special requests. For instance, if you need two ESAs instead of one.

So long as you provide this documentation and it is accepted by the condo association, you should be allowed to keep your ESA. Always check with condo association regulations and local laws before bringing an ESA onto a condominium property.

Unfortunately, even if you provide all the necessary documentation, some condo associations might still deny your request for an ESA. If this happens, you will need experienced legal help to get your case heard and ensure you can keep your ESA. One caveat is that the ESA must not pose a danger to other unit owner, so the odds of having a rattlesnake approved as an ESA are very low because the Condo Association has the duty to promote the health, safety, and welfare of  all condo residents.  

At Ferrer Law Group, our experienced FL condo lawyers can ensure your rights are not being violated and that your animal stays by your side. Call us today for a consultation.

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