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    HOA Homefront: Are pets allowed under Fair Housing laws even if CR&Rs say no?
    • July 5, 2024

    Q: Our CC&Rs state that no animal of any kind shall be kept in any unit. Recently, a resident adopted a large dog. The board approached the resident and a few days later she provided a letter from a psychiatrist stating that she suffers from anxiety and that the dog is a support animal. The letter claims the Federal Fair Housing Act gives her the right to keep the animal despite the CC&Rs.  Do HOAs have any recourse in this situation?  The resident is a renter, not an owner, if that makes any difference. — K. D., Redondo Beach.

    A: If the animal’s necessity is properly documented by someone with direct knowledge of the resident (whether an owner or not) as an “assistive animal” then it is not a “pet” and is not subject to the HOA’s pet rules.

    Website “certifications” aren’t sufficient. Should the animal harm others, damage property or otherwise cause a nuisance, the accommodation then becomes “unreasonable” and the owner of the animal can be held accountable for problems the animal causes.

    By the way, how can your HOA have a complete ban on animals in units, given Civil Code Section 4715, which protects the right of a resident to have one animal in their residence?

    Q: The board recently voted to change the parking rules in our community handicapped stalls within the parking garage. The board says handicap stalls will be viewed as common visitor stalls, subject to the same visitor parking limits. The intent of this change by the board is to punish individuals who park in handicapped stalls for extended periods of time. My concern is this does not comply with the Fair Housing Act. — N.K., Irvine.

    A: If someone qualifies under the Fair Housing laws as “disabled” and needs access to parking spaces closer to the resident’s home, the HOA rules take a back seat to the Fair Housing requirements. However, I often find that residents request special parking privileges that do not in fact assist them with their disability.

    For example, the person who prefers to park in visitor parking instead of their assigned garage, which is almost always closer. Accommodation requests must be viewed in standalone fashion without regard to the governing documents.

    So, if someone truly is disabled and requires reasonable help from the HOA with that disability, the HOA rules may not prevent that help. Also, DMV-issued handicapped placards are not documentation of a current disability.

    Q: I am going to request a slight modification to our sidewalk/entry, to make it wheelchair accessible. Is the HOA obligated to honor my request per ADA, or anything else? — S.M., Dana Point

    A: The ADA does not apply to most HOAs, which in most respects are not “public accommodations,” but state and federal Fair Housing laws apply.

    If a resident suffers from a disability requiring the modification of the unit’s entry, so long as the modification is “reasonable,” the HOA may be required to allow it. The modification’s cost in most instances must be paid for by the requesting resident.

    For more information on accommodating disabilities in California, go to calcivilrights.ca.gov.

    Kelly G. Richardson CCAL is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and Partner of Richardson Ober LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Send column questions to [email protected].

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