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Federal law allows for service animals in HOA

Q: I am being constantly harassed with doctored-up photos taken of my door. I have one active service dog — a white German shepherd named Snow. I have a retired service dog who is 13½ years old. She has hip problem. And I have a 5-year-old military retired police dog.

OK, so I’m gonna tell you this: No matter what dog, what breed, all dogs will bite if put in a position. I have a sign taped to my door that reads, “Beware of dog.” It kept coming off. I don’t know if they took it off or what.

They have been on my property taking pictures. I now have bells on my doors. Every time the dogs bark I come down and check to see if there’s anybody in my driveway or at my front door. It’s tearing up my stomach — my mental health. They will not respond to any of our registered letters. They send us registered letters. I have copies of those. They will not answer any more phone calls. I need your help on this. I’m getting really, really sick, along with the anxiety and depression. And this is a lot for my husband, who is retired military and works for the government.

A: The Fair Housing Act amendments of 1988 extended the protections of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Associations must allow service dogs and emotional support animals if necessary for a person with a disability. To fall under this provision, you must have a disability and you must have a disability-related need for the animal. Service animals are not pets. The law requires the association to make reasonable accommodations to their rules and regulations to allow a resident to have a service dog. There are no exclusions based on the breed or animal weight. The association can require a verification letter from the resident’s physician confirming the disability.

You have a couple of issues: the “Beware of dog” warning sign placed on your front door and the fact that there are three dogs within the residence. The federal law does not specifically address retired service dogs. Military dogs do not fall under the fair housing laws. To avoid further conflicts with your association, you should obtain the verification letter for the active service dog and for the retired service dog that can be presented to the board. As to your warning sign, you should contact their community manager to find out what kind of sign would be acceptable and where it can be located. Depending upon the governing documents, the association may not be able to provide a variance for the third dog, assuming that the rules state only two pets are allowed within the community.

You do have the right to contact the local HUD office at 702-366-2100 to discuss your issues in more detail.

Q: I live in a gated community. We have two pools. At one time, one was designated adult-only and the other a family pool. One of our residents complained about the adult-only pool, and it was changed to a “quiet” pool to allow children. Is there such a law that prohibits communities from having an adult-only pool?

A: In 1988, the Federal Fair Housing Act was amended to prohibit discrimination based on familial status and disability. In most cases, restricting children from the pool will be deemed as a violation of the federal fair housing laws that ban discrimination on the basis of age or familial status. Variations that have the same effect, such as setting aside specific times for family swim or lap swimming only, would similarly be suspect and subject to challenge.

Can your association obtain an exemption? Possibly, but there are strict requirements. The community must be an age-qualified association with at least 80 percent of the units occupied by adults 55 and older. The association’s policies are published to confirm that it qualifies for exemption. Be very careful and speak with an attorney that specializes in fair housing as such a rule could even be challenged.

Barbara Holland is a certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager. Questions may be sent to holland744o@gmail.com.

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