Community associations in New Jersey which have pet restrictions may need to permit a disabled resident to maintain an animal in his or her unit depending on needs. This rule could even apply to a visiting guest who is disabled.
Most people understand that the blind are entitled to use a guide dog wherever they go. However, there are other types of animals that also assist individuals with different types of disabilities and these also must be allowed despite any community pet restrictions. This could range from a monkey which performs tasks for a person with a spinal cord injury to a cat that provides emotional support to an individual with PTSD. Even if your association prohibits pets (or has weight or size restrictions for pets) they may be required to permit such animals for disabled residents or guests.
State and Federal law require a community association to make reasonable accommodations to the rules, policies, practices, or services when necessary to give someone with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the unit and common areas. When a resident requests an accommodation to a no-pet rule, unless it is apparent, the resident should be able to establish that he or she is disabled and describe how the animal would help him to use and enjoy the premises.
While some service animals may require specialized training, such as guide dogs or service dogs, others may not require any training at all. Keep in mind that assistance animals are not pets and you should never require an individual with an assistance animal to pay a pet fee.
Requests for disability accommodation should be taken very seriously by community association boards and managers. You may want to seek legal advice while reviewing a request and before making a decision.
If your association needs assistance with a reasonable accommodation request, or if you have any other questions, feel free to contact Stark & Stark’s Community Association Group.