Managing Partner, Schneider Buchel
The backstory. A shareholder had requested a reasonable accommodation for her daughter’s emotional support dog at a co-op with a no-pets policy. After the board, which did not believe the daughter actually lived in the building, denied the request, the shareholder filed a claim with the Division of Human Rights.
Hot on the trail. We did some digging and found the daughter’s Venmo account, which showed a house icon that typically signifies payments for a mortgage or rent, and payments were being made monthly. The board hired a private investigator, who found the daughter would come to the co-op in the morning to drop off the dog, go to work, then pick up the dog and go back to her home some 40 miles away. The co-op was her doggie day-care facility. There was no probable-cause finding, and the claim was dismissed.
The takeaway. When it comes to reasonable accommodation, requests for emotional support animals are one of the most abused. You need to examine people’s supporting documents to make sure they’re not fraudulent, since you can buy fake certificates on the web. Most important, when there is a request, you have to respond quickly one way or the other, because delay is the equivalent of denial. And if someone has defrauded the board and you grant the accommodation, you don’t have to live with it. You can take legal action.