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Community associations have seen a steady rise in the volume of residents making reasonable accommodation requests for emotional support animals—also known as care companions or therapy animals. Recognizing the complexities that association boards must navigate, CAI made it a priority in 2019 to advocate for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide clarification on responding to these requests.

On Jan. 28, HUD released new guidance for individuals with disabilities requesting an accommodation for an assistance animal and housing providers responding to these requests under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). According to HUD, FHA complaints concerning denial of reasonable accommodations and disability access comprise almost 60% of all FHA complaints, and those involving requests for reasonable accommodations for assistance animals are significantly increasing.

The agency's guidance clarifies when a housing provider may request information on an individual's disability and the disability-related need for an emotional support animal; whether internet certificates are considered a valid form of documentation when making a request; and the types of animals that can provide emotional support.

HUD's guidance does not expand or alter housing providers' obligations under FHA or HUD's implementing regulations. It is a tool for housing providers and persons with a disability to use at their discretion.

The document also provides best practices for addressing requests for reasonable accommodations to keep animals in housing where individuals with disabilities reside or seek to reside. HUD recommends its new guidance be read together with its regulations prohibiting discrimination under the FHA.

The goal of the guidance is to make it easier for housing providers and individuals requesting an accommodation for an assistance animal to better understand what legal steps need to be taken to secure a reasonable accommodation, especially when discussing a disability that is not readily discernable.

>>Read the highlights of the new guidance from HUD.​​​​





As a community association homeowner volunteer leader, board member, or community manager, communicating effectively is essential to promote inform​ed decision-making, educate residents, and lead to the success and harmony of your association.CAH600pxCommsTips.jpg

It may sound simple enough, but there are some basic guidelines that contribute to effective communication:

  • Communicate frequently. Don't be afraid to deliver important messages repeatedly in as many ways as possible, such as through e-newsletters and social media, at annual meetings, and during social events.
  • Listen. Communication is a two-way process. Receiving feedback from residents is as necessary as providing them information.
  • Be inclusive. Remember that residents come from many different backgrounds and hold a diverse set of opinions that can help make your community better.
  • Be positive, open, and direct. When announcing a board decision, share it promptly, provide as much information as possible, and explain the reason why it was made.

For example, T. Peter Kristian, CMCA, LSM, PCAM, general manager of Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners' Association in Hilton Head, S.C., and a CAI past president, organizes a community meeting every other month to give residents and board members a report of what's going on in the com​munity and allow them to ask questions. “It's that type of open communication that they feel comfortable with," he says.

The best way to approach dissenting residents when disagreements inevitably arise is to listen to them and remain composed even if tempers flare up, says Kristian.

“You have to be careful not to take the bait and (let) someone get under your skin. No matter how divisive someone may seem to be, you are the professional, and you need to be nice," he emphasizes. “Even though they're disagreeing with you and you may disagree with them, you listen to their side."

>>Learn how to establish a comprehensive communications program in Communications: How Community Associations Stay in Touch from CAI Press.



Commit to a climate of open discussion and debate, mutual respect, and tolerance

CAHDec600pxSocialMedia.jpgCommunities in California, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington state have adopted CAI's Community Association Civility Pledge, committing themselves to a climate of open discussion and debate, mutual respect, and tolerance.

At Ford's Colony Homeowners Association in Williamsburg, Va., making a commitment to civility was “a reaffirmation of the values that have defined our community," says General Manager Drew R. Mulhare, CMCA, LSM, PCAM, president of Realtec Community Services. “It is simply the right way to do business in an association of common interests."

The board of directors at Ford's Colony took the pledge as the next step in affirming its dedication to treating each of its 5,600 residents fairly and respectfully. As part of its statement of shared values and personal commitment, each board member agrees to:

  • Act honestly, in good faith, and in the best interests of the association.
  • Disagree with the idea, not with the person holding the idea. Support an atmosphere of mutual respect and courtesy.
  • Allow each member to fully address an idea, and to be heard, before responding or talking.
  • Offer constructive contributions to board and committee discussions.

In addition, the association has 13 standing committees with over 120 homeowner volunteer leaders who are highly engaged in the betterment of their community. “Collaboration and constructive discourse are essential to good decision-making and have helped make Ford's Colony an award-winning community," Mulhare notes.

It's easy to adopt CAI's Civility Pledge. Will your community be next?

Use the framework developed by CAI to lead your community through conversations about difficult and complex issues and harmonize feedback from residents, resulting in decisions that are informed and well balanced for the community as a whole.

>>Learn more about CAI's Civility Pledge.


Accepting money donated by homeowners


Q: Some of our homeowners want to leave the association money in their will. Can the association accept these sorts of gifts? Does it need to be set up through a trust or used for a specific purpose? —New York

A: Unless inconsistent with the terms of an association's governing documents or any certificate of incorporation, there is nothing that would restrict an association from accepting a monetary gift, be it during the life of the donor or as part of testamentary bequest. Similarly, a donor could establish a trust for the benefit of the association. If the association is aware that a donor desires to provide for the association in a will or trust, it may be beneficial to meet with the donor to ensure the intent and purpose of the donation can be satisfied.

While a general gift could be used by the association for any authorized purpose, a gift also may be directed by the donor for a specific purpose, such as common area improvements or capital projects. To the extent a gift is designated for a particular purpose requiring prior approval under the association's governing documents, the donor's directive does not excuse strict compliance with applicable procedures.

If a directed gift cannot be used for a purpose authorized by the governing documents, the gift may need to be returned. If the donor is alive, the association could request that any restriction be removed or modified. However, if the gift is testamentary, the association may be required to petition the surrogate court to redirect the gift to another recipient who can better fulfill the donor's intent.

Both the donor and the association should be mindful of associated tax implications. For the donor, gifts to an association generally cannot be deducted on personal tax returns. Even if an association is tax-exempt or a nonprofit corporation, it is not a qualified charitable organization. Only donations to qualified organizations defined by the Internal Revenue Service are deductible as charitable contributions.

For the association, donations may be considered taxable income, so board members should consult with the association accountant and attorney.

Finally, while associations should not rely on donations to balance their budget, the generosity of owners can provide community benefits to be enjoyed during their life or as lasting legacies.

>>Corey A. Auerbach is a partner with Barclay Damon in Clarence, N.Y.

Got a question?

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WEBINAR | MARCH 25​ | 2 p.m. ET (LIVE)


According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fair Housing Act complaints concerning denial of reasonable accommodations and disability access comprise almost 60% of all FHA complaints, and those involving requests for reasonable accommodat​ions for ​assistance animals are significantly increasing. Tune in to learn how the new guidance makes it easier for housing providers and individuals requesting an accommodation for an assistance animal to better understand what legal steps need to be taken to secure a reasonable accommodation, especially when discussing a disability that is not readily discernable. [Register Here]



2020 cai annual conference and exposition: community now 

​Registration is now open! Come discover worldwide trends and issues shaping community associations at the leading event for community association managers, management companies, business professionals, and homeowner volunteer leaders. Learn how to apply new ideas and strategies as soon as you get home.

We know the future is unpredictable, so let Community NOW give you the education you need today that sets you up for success tomorrow. [View Details and Register Here]

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