Emotional Support Dogs in Common Areas of Housing
Q: I was told by my apartment complex’s management that that I would need a doctor’s note in order to take my emotional support dog into any common areas like the laundry room. Is this correct?
A: Yes, a private housing provider can require documentation prior to allowing an emotional support animal into any common areas. It’s important to first remember that this situation is covered under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and not the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, emotional support animals are specifically not covered as a service animal with all of the rights to access granted to them. Additionally, private apartments are not covered under Title III of the ADA.
By contrast under the FHA, the term assistance animal is used which is less restrictive than the ADA’s service animal and can include an emotional support dog. Assistance animals are a type of reasonable modification to a policy. A housing provider can ask for verification that a tenant has a disability and that there is a disability related need for a modification E.G., having an assistance animal and allowing it to accompany that person into common areas. The verification can be from a doctor, but it also could be from a counselor or other professional.