BY JOHN KIRITSIS, ESQ., CPA, MBA, MS, JD, LL.M
Here’s an overview of NYC co-op laws revolving around emotional support animals:
- Fair Housing Laws:
The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits housing discrimination based on disability, and this includes individuals with emotional support animals. The FHA requires housing providers, including co-op boards, to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, which may include allowing ESAs as a form of accommodation.
- Emotional Support Animals vs. Service Animals:
It’s important to distinguish between ESAs and service animals. Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities and have broader access rights. ESAs provide comfort and emotional support to individuals with mental health conditions, and their rights are primarily protected under housing laws.
- Requesting an ESA Accommodation:
If a co-op shareholder requests permission to have an ESA in their unit, the co-op board should treat the request as an accommodation for a disability. The shareholder typically needs to provide documentation from a qualified healthcare professional stating that they have a disability and that the ESA is necessary to alleviate symptoms of that disability.
- Reasonable Accommodation Process:
Co-op boards are required to engage in an interactive process to determine if the requested ESA accommodation is reasonable. This involves reviewing the documentation provided by the shareholder and assessing whether the accommodation can be granted without causing undue hardship to the co-op.
- Documentation and Verification:
While co-op boards can request documentation verifying the need for an ESA, they cannot require detailed medical information or access to medical records. The documentation should establish a connection between the disability and the need for the ESA.
- Breed and Size Restrictions:
Co-op boards cannot impose breed or size restrictions on ESAs if those restrictions would interfere with the rights of individuals with disabilities. However, if an ESA poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, the co-op board may need to address the situation.
- Reasonable Accommodation Denials:
Co-op boards can only deny an ESA accommodation request if it would impose an undue financial or administrative burden, fundamentally alter the nature of the co-op, or pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
Co-op boards must maintain the confidentiality of medical and disability-related information provided by shareholders during the ESA accommodation process.
It’s important to note that laws and regulations can change, and specific legal advice should be sought when dealing with ESA accommodation requests in NYC co-ops. Co-op boards should consult legal professionals who specialize in housing and disability law to ensure that they are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Citations, References and Potentially Useful Resources for Further Information:
New York State Constitution
Federal Securities Regulation
New York State Martin Act
New York Condominium Act
New York State Security Regulations
New York Business Corporation Law
New York Limited Liability Company Law
New York Uniform Partnership Act
Federal Internal Revenue Code
New York State Tax Laws, Rules & Regulations
New York City Tax Laws, Rules & Regulations
Winston Churchill Owners, Inc. v. Regents Real Estate Associates
Board of Managers of the Park Regis Condominium v. Park Regis Owners Corp.
Park Sutton Condominium v. 447 E. 57th St. LLC
28 E. 10th Street Corp. v. Veras
Riverside Syndicate, Inc. v. Munroe
Essex House Condominium v. Marks
The Parc Vendome Condominium v. Atkinson
54-56 Meserole Street Owners Corp. v. Rossi
The Beekman Regent Condominium v. Bottiglieri
Chelsea 19th LLC v. West 19th Street Realty LLC
New York Department of Finance
New York City Department of Buildings
New York City Bar Association
New York State Bar Association
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