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Condominium Association Must Allow Emotional Support Animal

There have been several recent cases regarding whether or not a tenant or resident of a condominium complex may have an emotional support animal in the face of "no pet" rule in the condominium documents or in the condominium rules.

In August 2014, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals appears to have laid to rest this issue and held generally that persons with a disability have a right keep an emotional support animal, although the courts are still defining the limits of that right. In that case, Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condo. Ass'n, Inc., 765 F.3d 1277 (11th Cir., 2014), the condominium association demanded that an owner of a unit remove his dog because it violated the condominium association's pet weight policy. The dog weighed over 25 pounds and the condominium association's rules prohibited dogs weighing more than 25 pounds. The owner claimed that the dog was an emotional support animal and that he was prescribed an emotional support animal that would assist the owner in coping with his disability.

After months of correspondence going back and forth, the condominium owner filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), claiming that the condominium association failed to reasonably accommodate his disability. HUD found against the association and the association allowed the owner to keep the dog. Subsequently, the owner filed suit in federal court for damages under the American's with Disabilities Act and a jury rendered a verdict in favor of the owner. The condominium association appealed, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the jury verdict, stating that the condominium association denied the reasonable accommodation requested by the owner in violation of federal law. As an aside, the Appeals Court also ruled that presence of the dog in the courtroom during the trial was not an abuse of discretion by the trial court.

As similar conclusion was found by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Castillo Condominium Association v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Case Nos. 14-2139, 15-1223 (1st Cir. May 2, 2016).

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If you have any questions regarding real estate or condominium law, please contact Santiago J. Padilla at 1-800-483-7197.

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