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A Dog-Gone Important Blog: Emotional Support Animals (“ESAs”)

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Finding a buyer their dream home is hard! Buyer consultations typically end with the buyer providing agents with a long list of must-haves and no-gos. For many buyers, one of their must-haves might be that their beloved pet needs to be able to live with them. As a dog owner and dog lover, I know how important having your pet live with you is. So what happens when a buyer finds their dream home, and the association says “NO PETS?” One option is to provide the association with the appropriate documentation proving your pet is an Emotional Support Animal (“ESA”).  

Certifying your pet to be an ESA is more challenging than it used to be. Pet owners used to be able to pay a nominal fee online and obtain a certificate that their pet was an ESA. Now, Florida Statutes 760.27 have created stringent requirements for an ESA. Under the Florida Statutes, an ESA is defined as “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.” The Statute further states that “if a person’s disability-related need for an emotional support animal is not readily apparent, the housing provider may request reliable information that reasonably supports the person’s need for the particular emotional support animal being requested.” Supporting information may include: 

  1. Information identifying the particular assistance or therapeutic emotional support provided by the specific animal from a health care practitioner, as defined in s. 456.001; a telehealth provider, as defined in s. 456.47; or any other similarly licensed or certified practitioner or provider in good standing with his or her profession’s regulatory body in another state. Such information is reliable if the practitioner or provider has personal knowledge of the person’s disability and acts within the scope of their practice to provide the supporting information. 
  1. Information from any other source that the housing provider reasonably determines to be reliable  under the federal Fair Housing Act and s. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 

A Few More Important Points about ESA’s Are Listed Below: 

  1. The housing provider may require proof of compliance with state and local requirements for licensing and vaccinating each ESA. 
  1. The housing provider may not request information that discloses the diagnosis or severity of a person’s disability or any medical records relating to the disability. 
  1. An ESA registration of any kind, including but not limited to an ID card, patch, certificate, or similar registration obtained from the internet, is not, by itself, sufficient information to reliability establish that a person has a disability or a disability-related need for an ESA. 

Federal law and Florida law provide that housing providers must make reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities, including relaxing restrictions or rules that prohibit the keeping of animals or placing restrictions on animal weight or breed. It is important to note that Housing providers can make limited and reasonable inquiries into a person’s need for an accommodation. Still, they may request only certain information, and placing undue demands on a person requesting an accommodation violates both Federal and Florida law.  If you have questions about ESAs, please do not hesitate to contact your local real estate attorney

Picture of Mallory Bauer, Esq.

Mallory Bauer, Esq.

Mallory practices in the areas of residential real property transactions and condominium development work, including but not limited to real estate closings, contract and lease preparation, negotiation, and seller financing.

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