Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condominium Association Inc.,
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178183 (Dec. 17, 2012)
When a disabled tenant makes an accommodation request for an emotional support animal, a skeptical housing provider is entitled to seek information. But how much?
Ajit Bhogaita was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He lived in a condominium that prohibited pets weighing more than 25 pounds. Bhogiaita’s treating physician prescribed an emotional support animal to help him cope with his disability. However, the dog Bhogaita acquired exceeded the condominium’s weight limit. After the condominium association sent Bhogaita a notice demanding him to remove his dog, Bhogaita responded with a note from his doctor. The note stated that Bhogaita had PTSD and that the dog was prescribed as an emotional support animal to help him deal with his anxiety. Unsatisfied, the condominium association sent Bhogaita three letters, making an additional 19 requests, about the nature of his impairment, including how his impairment substantially limited a major life activity, how long had he been receiving treatment, what specific training his dog received, and why he needed a dog exceeding the condo’s weight limit.
Bhogaita sued the condominium association, claiming it failed to provide him a reasonable accommodation under federal and state fair housing laws. The court agreed: “By persisting in its intrusive quest for more — and largely irrelevant — information, AHCA (Altamonte Heights Condominium Association Inc.) constructively denied Bhogaita’s request.”
The upshot is that when a housing provider receives a request for an accommodation, it is permitted to request information about that person’s disability, such as a letter from a doctor. However, when that housing provider requests detailed information about the nature of the disability, such requests are considered unreasonable.