When determining whether an owner’s pet qualifies for admittance in a “no-pet” building, cooperatives and condominiums must be extremely careful to follow the federal, state, and city fair housing laws governing how far a board can go when investigating and denying an animal’s entrance. Federal prosecutors in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York have been particularly aggressive in enforcing anti-discrimination laws against landlords and housing complexes that have allegedly demonstrated an unwillingness to implement house rules and polices that accommodate residents who request permission to keep dogs or other animals medically required to support their disability.1 As a result, the government has obtained sweeping consent decrees that require affected New York co-ops to adhere to the terms of government-prescribed “reasonable accommodation policies” that virtually remove all board discretion in deciding whether to waive building no-pet policies.

Diverse Standards

The laws that protect persons with disabilities apply diverse standards. While all of the laws essentially agree on the circumstances under which a person is deemed to be disabled, each of the applicable laws defines “disability” or “handicap” in slightly different ways.

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