A Utah HOA Faces $96,000 in Fines in a Pet Policy/Companion Animal Clash

By Curtis G. Kimble

A Utah condominium HOA, its property management company and an individual property manager are facing $96,000 in penalties, plus other amounts, as a result of multiple charges of discrimination brought by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  HUD is alleging that the HOA and property manager violated the federal Fair Housing Act by refusing to accommodate a resident who required an emotional support dog because of a disability and that they assessed illegal fees and fines against the resident for the presence of the assistance animal.

HUD is charging the association for violating the Act when the association required the resident to pay a “pet registration fee,” provide proof of liability coverage, sign a medical release for the board to obtain his confidential medical records, and when the association levied fines for failure to pay the pet registration fee.  The resident provided medical documentation of his need for the assistance animal and obtained liability insurance, but refused to give the HOA board access to his private medical information or to pay the $150 pet registration fee. Even after it acknowledged that the resident’s dog was a medically necessary assistance animal, the association continued to demand that he pay the fee.

This association and property manager did use an attorney during the events above, which just goes to show how important it is that an association use an attorney that can truly advise the board and not just act as a blunt instrument of enforcement.  In this case, there was little wisdom in pursuing a $150 fee at the risk of incurring $100,000 in fines, especially when the $150 was for a “pet registration fee” and, as we’ve explained in the past on this blog, assistance animals are not considered “pets.”

The Fair Housing Act requires HOAs to make reasonable accommodations to no-pet rules for residents with disabilities who need companion or assistance animals.  Don’t risk hefty fines and penalties, contact us for assistance whenever your association faces this tricky and complex issue.

UPDATE: The Justice Department announced a $20,000 consent decree and settled this case.  See the announcement here.

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One Response to A Utah HOA Faces $96,000 in Fines in a Pet Policy/Companion Animal Clash

  1. JAMES NEBEKER says:

    The growing “need” expressed by many homeowners within pet restricted HOAs appears to be a mental/emotional health crisis nationwide. The law is incredibly vague and does not allow HOA’s the ability to truly determine if a companion animal is truly necessary. All too often doctors write out prescriptions, stating that so-and-so is under their care for anxiety or depression, but these are only presented after a new homeowner moves in with their pet and becomes aware of the rules prohibiting them. Suddenly, they don’t own a pet, but rather a medical necessity. While I do believe there are legitimate claims out there, I think that a majority of them are simply bogus.

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