Pets can feel like part of the family, but you don´t have a given right to move into a new apartment with your four-legged roommate. Sorry.
While Puerto Rico’s Condominium Law does not openly prohibit pets, an analysis made by Microjuris, a company dedicated to research and legal education, concluded the statute also does “not prohibit the Board of Directors from banning them.” Instead, the law allows for each housing community to regulate the possession of animals.
“Yes, a condominium can refuse and prohibit pets,” professor Michel Godreau Robles told THE WEEKLY JOURNAL.
An expert on the subject, Godreau explained some pet bans are included in master deeds, the building’s original document of inception. Other buildings address the matter in their bylaws and rules. Buildings that do accept pets can impose restrictions on size, weight and even in the number of pets that can live in an apartment.
But even if condominium rules prohibit pets of any kind, there are exceptions under the Fair Housing Act, a federal regulation that protects people from discrimination when renting or buying a home. For instance, a landlord cannot refuse the guide dog of a person with a disability such as visual impairment or seizure disorder.
Godreau noted that a service animal is not a pet. It is a dog trained to carry out a specific task; in most cases identify dangers or symptoms that could be life-threatening. Moreover, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that businesses who serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls and sports facilities, allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas where customers are generally allowed.
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How about emotional support and comfort pets?
The Fair Housing Act requires the housing provider to make “reasonable accommodations” to a request for such a therapy animal. This requirement can be satisfied easily with a letter from a doctor or a therapist stating the disability and the need for the support animal.
But this is where it gets murky since some pet owners are getting their doctor’s certification online without any evaluation. Plus, emotional support dogs don’t need any training.
The Humane Society explains that an assistance animal can be a cat, dog, or another type of companion animal, and does not need to be trained to perform a service. According to the organization, the emotional and physical benefits from the animal living in the home are what qualify the animal as an assistance animal.
To avoid fraudulent requests for emotional support pets, Godreau pointed out that the landlord or the Board of Directors must evaluate that the letter requesting the reasonable accommodation must come from a physician or a therapist that has treated the person and not from an unknown doctor diagnosing virtually.
“It has to be a reliable and credible certification,” said the expert, who has penned various articles and books on the subject.
However, in the event a landlord denies a request for a reasonable accommodation, the person can file a complaint electronically with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development requesting the agency to investigate the alleged discrimination claim.