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Building Management Hawaii December/January 2014 - (Page 32)

Making Room for Rover Know your obligations and rights when it comes to assistance animals on the property. By Stacy Pope animal aSSiStance M ost of us love animals-but when it comes to keeping properties orderly, a "no pets" policy is often enforced. So what do you do when a disabled tenant informs you that he or she will be acquiring a service dog? The first thing to remember is that a service dog-and any other assistance animal, no matter how cute it might be-is not considered a pet when it comes to federal law. It is exempt from "no pets" policies and pet restrictions. That means that you have an obligation to attempt to accommodate your tenant's assistance animal. You also have rights that will safeguard you against unreasonable requests or circumstances. "Take all accommodation requests regarding assistance animals seriously," advises Jelani Madaraka, a civil rights analyst with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in Hawaii. "Major pitfalls property managers step into is not fully considering all requests and not engaging tenants in an interactive process to obtain the necessary information to make a proper decision." In the 2012 fiscal year, the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission dealt with 40 complaints of housing discrimination, and 13 of the complaints involved people with disabilities, including the use of assistance animals. Another type of assistance animal is a comfort animal, which offers emotional support to help alleviate the symptoms or effects of a person's disability. A comfort animal can help relieve anxiety or depression, or even help reduce pain for someone with a stress-induced medical condition. Although dogs are the most common assistance animal, the FDA leaves the door open for any animal to potentially qualify as an assistance animal-even a goldfish-and it can be of any size or weight as long as it serves to help ease the owner's disability. Assistance animals are not required to have certified training, licensing or identification. However, Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs founder and executive director Susan Luehrs says, "If your tenant has a service dog from a certified training program, that dog will be well behaved and quiet." What is an Assistance Animal? The FDA defines a person with a disability as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, working, learning, washing and dressing; has a record of having such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. Examples of these impairments include orthopedic, visual, speech or hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, According to the Fair Housing Act (FDA), "assistance animal" refers to an animal that works, provides assistance or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. One type of assistance animal is a service dog, which may fetch items, pull a wheelchair, alert its owner to a knock at the door, help him or her across a busy street, and much more. 32 December 2013 - January 2014 BMH Who Is a Person with a Disability? multiple sclerosis, AIDS and HIV infections, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, alcoholism, mental retardation, emotional illness, specific learning disabilities, developmental disabilities and manic depression. Anyone who meets the above criteria may engage an assistance animal to help minimize or cope with his or her disability. What Is My Role as Property Manager? As a property manager in Hawaii, you have a legal obligation to provide what is known as "reasonable accommodation"-in other words, "modification or exemption"-to rules, policies, practices or services so that a tenant with disabilities is able to comfortably enjoy his or her dwelling in full. Your tenant may request an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation of his or her special needs. The accommodation in this case would be an exception to your property's "no pets" rule. Your responsibilities in this regard begin the moment a tenant informs you he or she would like to have an assistance animal on the property. They taper off when the animal either has been accommodated or justifiably denied. So Where Do We Begin? Planning for an Assistance Animal on the Property: The process begins when a tenant announces that he or she will need an assistance animal. He or she may tell you verbally, in writing or by another means of communication. Once you have been notified, you are legally required to begin steps toward resolution. Unless the disability is apparent, you may request proof that your tenant has a disability and that the need for an assistance animal is

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Building Management Hawaii December/January 2014

Signs & Safety How Do I Get Out Of Here?
Signs Of A Safe Building
A Sign From The Feds
Water Savings Coming Clean With Recycled Water
Water & Energy: Two-For-One Savings
Solar  Hawaii’s Leaders In Solar
Waterproofing Cementious Coating Vs. Polyurethane Foam
Sky Arches
The $1 Million Mistake
Seal The Deal
Resin Injections Save Basement
Waste Management Keeping The Trash Industry Clean
Special Offer
Assistance Animals Making Room For Rover
Green Cleaning Be Green: Resources & Tips

Building Management Hawaii December/January 2014