Florida's law on service animals is quite clear. It restricts the type of animal that qualifies for specific work with or without training. It has become a trend for the board operating pet-restricted communities to receive more requests for ESAs than they did previously.
Approval for an ESA
It is effortless to be approved for an emotional support animal. Many websites offer ESA certification. The paperwork comes through email; however, the new laws aim to crack down on the quick ESA certifications.
On July 1, 2020, the amendment of Chapter 760 of the Florida Statute became effective. The statute's purpose is to deter people from using fraudulent ESA requests that misrepresent permission to train a service animal. Violators are to be imprisoned with a fine of up to $500.
Florida Statute Section 720.27(2)(1)-(4) explains that if a person's disability is apparent, the Association that approves the animal request should include "reliable information that reasonably supports the fact that the person has a disability." This request should include the receipt of disability benefits from any state or local government.
When the new Florida laws confront these people who send requests, they retract their requests. The new law criminalizes fraudulent requests by subjecting the perpetrators to fines, extreme cases, and jail time.
Service animals vs Emotional Support Animals
There is a difference between a service animal and an ESA. As per the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal can only be a dog or a miniature horse; an ESA can be any animal. Alligators, snakes, and monkeys are considered emotional support animals.
Service animals must be trained, but an Emotional Support Animal does not have to be trained. ESAs require documentation for public access a service animal doesn't.
Florida HOAs and Emotional Support Animals
ESAs serve a legitimate purpose, even though they have gotten a bad reputation from too much fraud that masks regular pets as ESAs. That's why Homeowners and Condominium Associations have the right to impose a pet policy in their communities of buildings. The policies are made to protect the owners who have allergies, phobias, or simply those that hate noises the pets come with. The policy is stricter for ESA and even dire for a fake Emotional Support Animal.
However, HOAs are forced to accept tenant requests to live with their qualified ESAs even if Conditions, Covenant, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) prohibit pets. After all, ESAs and service animals are not pets. The permit is only canceled when the animal poses a danger to other tenants.
Dos and Don'ts
HOAs that are not well informed on laws surrounding ESAs refuse requests with no legal rights to do so. The Fair House Act does not permit house providers to discriminate against people with legitimate ESAs by refusing to give them houses. They should not charge any extra fees for the ESA.
If an HOA declines a tenant's request for accommodation, the refusal must be reasonable. Under the Florida Fair House Act, declining to accommodate a tenant with legitimate paperwork can land you in a lawsuit.
Nowadays, prospective Emotional Support Animal owners should possess a valid ESA recommendation letter from a licensed professional before requesting accommodation from a housing provider.
Some business people don't allow service animals on their premises. According to ADA , they should always ask questions about animals accompanying the person, whether the animal is a service animal or a requirement because of a disability, and the work the animal is trained to do.
To qualify for an ESA in Florida, make sure a licensed healthcare provider evaluates you. Providing fake documentation in Florida is punishable as a misdemeanor offense.
Partner with GrandManors
Overall, the animal should perform tasks or services, alleviate your mood and do the work that affects your disability to qualify as an ESA. We at GrandManors provide innovative HOA management software to help you focus on your luxury activities. For more information, please contact us today.