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Four-Legged Nuisance

Who qualifies? The  main criteria for residents applying to live with an emotional support animal are to establish that they have a disability under the Fair Housing Act or the Americans With Disabilities Act and to provide documentation from a verified medical professional. If you have any doubts about an application, talk to your attorney in a timely fashion. A delay can be interpreted as a denial, and you don’t want the applicant filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission simply because you were lax in responding.

Obeying the rules. There are protections in the bylaws and proprietary lease should an animal become a nuisance; just because someone has a support animal doesn’t mean he or she can violate co-op or condo rules. If, for example, a resident complains that the dog next door is barking incessantly, it’s critical that you get verification from multiple neighbors and have them document the disturbance by keeping a detailed log — the dates and times of day, how loud the barking is and how long it lasts. The board can then write a letter to the owner with that information to see if something short of legal action can get the problem solved, which often works. 

We were involved in a resolution where a dog actually bit a few people, but after a reasoned discussion, the shareholder agreed to remove the animal. In other cases, we’ve seen people start using a muzzle. We’ve even had some owners agree to dog training at their own expense.  

Plan B.  With any agreement, you have to spell out what’s going to happen if an owner reneges on an agreement. Boards do have the option to terminate the lease and take the person to court. But eviction should be your last resort. We were involved in a case with a difficult support animal where the board had an appraisal done of the owner’s apartment and then bought the apartment back from the owner at its current value, which worked out well for everyone involved. Getting creative with problem-solving is always beneficial.

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