Lesson #5: Service Animals Are Subject to Reasonable Community Rules

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Exempting a disabled tenant’s service animal from a no-pets policy is a common kind of reasonable accommodation. But a Florida case deals with what a landlord can do when those accepted service animals create a nuisance for other tenants.

Situation: A condo association with a no-pets policy lets a tenant keep two service dogs to accommodate his disability. After several years of good behavior, the dogs turn into incessant barkers who disturb their neighbors. The association orders the tenant to get rid of them or face eviction.  

You Make the Call: Did the association violate its FHA duty to accommodate the tenant?

Answer: No

Ruling: The Florida state court refuses to grant the tenant an injunction to block the association from enforcing the rule, and the federal court upholds the ruling on procedural grounds [Mercier v. Turnberry Isle S. Condo. Ass’n, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 243301].

Takeaway: Even service animals that are reasonably necessary to enable disabled prospects and tenants an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling and public and common use areas must behave and not create an unreasonable nuisance for other tenants. The broader point is that the FHA duty to accommodate reasonable requests for service animals doesn’t preclude you from enforcing rules necessary to ensure your other residents a quiet, clean, and healthy community.

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