Q. I live in a 40-unit condo building, which has a “no pet” amendment from 1980. A woman recently purchased a unit and has been seen with a dog, and the dog barks all the time. She signed all the disclosure forms stating “no pets, no renters.” She has given the board a note from a nurse practitioner that the dog is an emotional support dog. What can we do?
A. “Common-interest communities, such as your condominium association, are subject to both federal and state fair housing laws,” says Donna A. Zanetti, Esq., of the firm Leach Johnson Song & Gruchow, which has offices in Las Vegas and Reno. “Nevada’s fair housing law, NRS 118, mirrors the federal law in most respects. Therefore, this brief answer will focus on the federal Fair Housing Act Amendments (“FHAA”) which protect persons from discrimination in housing based on disability among other characteristics.
“Presumably, the owner has informed the board that she has a disability and that the dog provides her with assistance for this disability. Under FHAA, the association must consider making a “reasonable accommodation” for the emotional support dog, despite any restriction prohibiting pets in its governing documents. A reasonable accommodation is a change, exception or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their dwelling, including the common areas.
“The board must also keep in mind that by law an emotional support or assistance animal is not a “pet”. Therefore, many pet restrictions and rules do not apply. Further, emotional support or assistance animals are not limited to dogs. Any type of animal may fulfill this function.