Moving can be stressful for military families, especially for military families with disabilities. When moving to an area with limited housing options it can often seem as if living in privatized military housing (“Base housing”) is the only option. Fortunately, the Fair Housing Act awards the same protections to residents of privatized military housing as it does to residents of off base housing. This means that it is illegal to discriminate against race, national origin, color, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.
One accomodation that disabled individuals may need to request is the presence of an assistance animal. The Fair Housing Act defines an assistance animal as “an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability.” This means that an assistance animal is not a pet, and is instead a necessary piece of medical equipment. While the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that assistance animals (also known as “service animals”) be task trained for public access, the Fair Housing Act does not require that the animals be task trained as long as their presence in the home alleviates the disability in some way. These animals are commonly referred to as “emotional support animals” or “ESA”.
Whether your assistance animal is task trained or provides emotional support for your disability, the process for requesting an accommodation is the same. You are able to submit your request at any time before or after moving into your home, and you may submit it in whatever format you prefer. Many housing companies will provide you their preferred form, however, they are required to accept your request regardless of how it is submitted, including but not limited to, email, phone, or in person. We recommend that you always follow up in writing after any verbal conversations for documentation purposes.
Once you have submitted your accommodation request you may be required to submit additional documentation. Your housing provider may request additional documentation only if the disability and need for the assistance animal are not apparent. If the disability and need for the animal are not apparent then your housing provider may ask you if your animal is task trained, if the answer is yes then they may not request additional documentation. If the animal is not task trained then they may request additional documentation. Your housing provider is not allowed to ask for your diagnosis but may request documentation that you have a disability and that you have a need for an assistance animal. This may be in the form of a letter from a medical provider, social security disability determination, documentation of veterans disability, medical records, or other forms of documentation.
Your assistance animal is not a pet and your housing provider is not allowed to charge you pet rent, pet fees, or any additional fees related to owning the animal, however, if your assistance animal damages the property you may be charged fees related to the repair or replacement of the property that was damaged. Your assistance animal must not be subject to any restrictions such as pet friendly units, breed restrictions, or other restrictions that would apply to pets. Even though your assistance animal is medically necessary there may be some instances where they can be denied or asked to leave. Your animal must not be a danger to neighbors or housing employees and must not cause significant damage to the property.
For further assistance with submitting a request for an assistance animal in military housing submit an advocate request.