Many argue their pet is essentially a member of the family, but running into restrictions at condos and rentals is common, especially in New York.

  • In New York City, 75 percent of rentals and 45 percent of condos ban pets, according to Pet Friendly Realty.
  • There are two sets of rules for fair housing as they relate to allowing service animals: One is for medical needs, like blindness, and the other -- considered a level below -- is for emotional issues.
  • Assuming the renter or buyer is prequalified, Pet Friendly Realty will ask clients to go to a small network of psychotherapists for formal assessments.
  • Once a client is approved for an emotional support animal, any building is now a pet-friendly building, according to the real estate firm's founder.

Many argue their pet is essentially a member of the family, but those same animal-lovers find themselves running into restrictions at condos and rentals — especially in New York.

In the Big Apple, 75 percent of rentals and 45 percent of condos ban pets, says Pet Friendly Realty. The new agency, lead by real estate lawyer Hal Eisenstein, is determined to keep pets housed with their adoring owners in accordance with fair housing rights.

“There’s nothing worse than a family being separated from their pet because of building policies,” Eisenstein said. “Experiencing firsthand the emotional hardship this can cause, I wanted to help others by educating them on federal housing protections they may qualify for and assist them in using these laws to smooth their transition.”

Where it all started

Eisenstein first began exploring the idea of fair housing laws and pet restrictions when he started the Emotional Support Animal Center, designed to help diagnose people who wanted to fly with their pets.

[graphiq id=”brsWT7xIHg9″ title=”Social and Emotional Support for Disabled Adults in New York” width=”600″ height=”523″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/brsWT7xIHg9″ link=”http://time-series.findthedata.com/l/109734/Social-and-Emotional-Support-for-Disabled-Adults-in-New-York” link_text=”Social and Emotional Support for Disabled Adults in New York | FindTheData”]

What Eisenstein discovered is that there are two sets of rules for fair housing as they relate to service animals: One is for medical needs, like blindness, and the other — considered a level below — is for emotional issues.

As long as a licensed therapist evaluates the tenant or buyer and provides documentation proving the individual needs his or her pet in order to live in a typical manner, the landlord or homeowners’ association cannot forbid that individual from renting or owning in the building with out facing legal repercussions.

“The law says if you have an emotional disability, which is defined as some kind of emotional incapacity that interferes with a major life function — eating or dressing, for instance, or anything more than an impairment that rises to a level with the inability to perform everyday functions — and if having a pet live with you basically makes things better, then the landlord has to permit you to live with that pet,” Eisenstein said.

How potential renters/buyers can work with Pet Friendly Realty

First, Eisenstein’s agency asks potential renters or buyers to undergo a prequalification process, which he says is similar to a mortgage prequalification that an agency would ask of their clients.

Assuming the renter or buyer is prequalified, Pet Friendly Realty will ask clients to go to a small network of psychotherapists for formal assessments. (The agency assists the client, but therapists don’t provide diagnoses for the clients or build ongoing relationships with them, according to Eisenstein.) The law requires a licensed medical psychotherapist provide formal documentation in order for the client to qualify.

Once a client is approved for an emotional support animal, any building is now a pet-friendly building, Eisenstein said. As long as documentation proves the individual’s disability and outlines why the pet is necessary to that person’s emotional wellbeing, landlords and HOAs can’t constrain breeds of dogs and cats based on reputation.

“The only case they have for denying the accommodation is if the specific pet is known to be a dangerous animal. The landlord has to have actual knowledge, not just because of the breed or size,” Eisenstein said.

Although Eisenstein said he has received some pushback within his other company — Emotional Support Animal Center, where he facilitates diagnostic assessments for individuals who are forced to get rid of their pets — the laws are specific enough for clients to prevail.

“I’ve not yet had a client denied, and we’ve had thousands,” he said. “The laws are very specific. The landlord is not allowed to attack the underlying diagnosis, or come into court and say, ‘I’d like them to see my therapist for the next couple of months.'”

However, Eisenstein admits that a lack of a positive relationships with many buildings could result in a hot situation, so he has built a strong network with agencies in the New York City area and plans to refer clients for showings if necessary.

“People are disabled, and you can’t discriminate against them. There isn’t enough respect for people who have emotional issues,” he said. “I personally am not going to be the judge and jury of whether or not someone will qualify.”

Email Jennifer Riner

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