Emotional Support Animal vs. Severe Pet Allergies – Who Wins?

A no-pet policy. An owner who requests an emotional support animal (ESA). Another owner with severe pet allergies. What’s your client to do?

A recent ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court demonstrates just how dicey this situation can be — even when a board tries its best to accommodate everyone.

The case involved tenants in an apartment building with a no-pet policy, but, says Stephen Davis, an attorney with the firm Carmody MacDonald who represents more than 150 associations in the St. Louis, Mo., area, “there are certainly parallels in the HOA context.”

The lawsuit was filed by a tenant with severe, medically documented allergies to dander. Another tenant moved in after her and, a month into his lease term, sought a waiver of the no-pets policy as an accommodation for his mental illness.

In response, the manager for the building contacted other residents to determine if any had allergies and, when the woman said she did, reached out to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission for guidance. A commission staffer told him it would be unreasonable to move the new tenant to another building that allowed pets and advised him to try to accommodate both tenants.

So he allowed the dog and directed the two tenants to use different stairways. He also gave the allergic tenant an air purifier. All for naught — she continued to suffer allergy attacks and eventually sued the landlord for breach of her lease’s no-pet policy and breach of her right to the quiet enjoyment of her unit.

The case made it all the way to Iowa’s Supreme Court. Learn how it all shook out, and lessons you can take away for your association:

Support Animal Requests in No-Pet Buildings Are a Tricky Balancing Act

Best regards,
Matt Humphrey

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