New Jersey law prohibiting discrimination is not limited to the workplace. For example, under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) townhouse/condominium Homeowner Associations (HOAs) and Landlords must reasonably accommodate the disabilities of those who reside within their properties or make use of their common areas Specifically, they are required to make, “reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” N.J.A.C. 13:13-3.4(f)(2). A landlord, board, association, or other housing provider may deny a request for a reasonable accommodation for a disability request only if it can prove following an individualized fact sensitive assessment, that the request is unreasonable under the particular circumstances. Factors to be considered in determining whether an accommodation request is unreasonable include, but are not limited to, whether the accommodation or modification would impose an undue administrative or financial burden on the board or association or would fundamentally alter the nature of the board or association’s operations. https://www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/ codes/publications/ pdf_lti/guidance.pdf
In Mauro v. Penwal Affordable Corp., the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights found probable cause of discrimination when Penwal Affordable Corp (“Penwal”), a housing provider for senior citizens, failed to reasonably accommodate resident Madonna Mauro (“Mauro”) with a handicap parking space. DCR Docket No. HB60HW-64910 (Div. on Civil Rights 2015). Mauro requested Penwal to reasonably accommodate her need for accessible parking by specifically reserving an extra handicap parking space for her. Id. Penwal denied Mauro’s accommodation, arguing that such an accommodation would lead to further requests resulting in disruptions of parking effecting all residents. Id. The court disagreed with Penwal stating, “the housing provider must evaluate each request on an individual basis and not merely speculate that a suggested accommodation is not feasible based on an imagined parade of horribles.” Id. Ultimately, Penwal’s failure to engage in an interactive dialogue with Mauro about the parking situation constituted a failure to reasonably accommodate Mauro’s physical disability in violation of the LAD. Id.
Another example under LAD of HOAs, boards, and landlords being required to provide reasonable accommodations is found when residents or tenants are need of service dogs to assist with their disabilities. Specifically, N.J.S.A. § 10:5-29.2 provides in part:
“A person with a disability who has a service or guide dog, or who obtains a service or guide dog, or who retains their former service or guide dog as a pet after its retirement from service, shall be entitled to full and equal access to all housing accommodations and shall not be required to pay extra compensation for such service or guide dog or retired pet, but shall be liable for any damages done to the premises by such dog. Any provision in any lease or rental agreement prohibiting maintenance of a pet or pets on or in the premises shall not be applicable to a working service or guide dog, or a retired service or guide dog, owned by a tenant who is a person with a disability.”
The LAD distinguishes between service dogs and Emotional Support Animals (“ESA”). Under the LAD, a “service dog” is individually trained to perform tasks to assist a person with a disability. Examples include, a dog trained to guide the blind, alert the deaf, or calm anxiety attacks induced by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. N.J.S.A. § 10:5-5dd. Service dogs, unlike ESAs, are automatically exempt from pet prohibitions on residential leases. By contrast, an animal may qualify as an ESA if a doctor or mental health professional deems that the animal helps a person, with a disability recognized by the LAD, relieve at least one symptom of that person’s disability. A tenant with an ESA may request a reasonable accommodation of their landlord’s no pet policy by providing official medical documentation and a request to soften the no pet policy. However, a housing provider is not required to automatically accommodate a disability alleviated by an ESA. New Jersey law only requires a reasonable accommodation to the rules, policies, practices, and services to accommodate a disability. See NJDCR Fact Sheet – Emotional Support Animal in Housing (003).
Whether a housing provider has acted to reasonably accommodate an ESA accommodation requires a fact sensitive determination. Oras v. Housing Authority of Bayonne, 373 N.J. Super. 302, 315 (App. Div. 2004). The factors considered are the occupant’s disability-related need for the animal, whether the animal alleviates one or more symptoms of a disability, weighed against whether granting the request would result in an undue financial burden or fundamentally alter the housing providers operations. Id. at 315-316. In J.S. v. Brooks-Sloate Terrace Cooperative Association, et al., the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights found probable cause of discrimination existed when a housing provider refused to accommodate their no pet policy for the complainant’s pet dog, which alleviated symptoms of her daughter’s depression. DCR Docket No. HR08MT-65799 (Div. on Civil Rights 2016). Rather than engaging in dialogue regarding which “rules, policies, practices, or services” could be accommodated, the housing providers only sought to evict the complainant for keeping the dog in violation of the no pet policy. Id. Thus, the housing provider failed to meet their legal responsibility to reasonably accommodate the complainants ESA. Id.
Should you believe your Homeowners Association or Landlord has failed to reasonably accommodate your disability, contact the at Mashel Law, LLC (732)-536-6161 or fill out the contact form on this page for immediate help. At Mashel Law, LLC, located in Marlboro, New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of employee.