Saturday, August 18, 2018

Legal Line Question: Assistance Animals and Service Animals

Legal Line Question: 
Assistance Animals, 
Emotional Support 
Animals and 
Service Animals

Q: What is the difference between an Assistance Animal,
an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal?

A: There are two primary federal laws which
relate to fair housing, disability and animals;
the Fair Housing Act ("FHA") and the Americans
with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The ADA defines
a "Service Animal" as a dog or small horse that
is individually trained to do work or perform tasks
for an individual with a disability. The FHA defines
"Assistance Animal" as an animal that provides
assistance or performs tasks for the benefit of
a person with a disability. The major difference
between a Service Animal and an Assistance Animal
is that a Service Animal is required to be specially
trained and certified where an Assistance Animal is
not required to be trained and certified. An Emotional
Support Animal ("ESA") is recognized as an Assistance
Animal under the FHA and is defined as an animal that
provides emotional support that alleviates one or more
identified symptoms of a person’s disability. Because
an ESA is recognized as an Assistance Animal, it is
covered under the FHA.

Important Tip: For further discussions of Assistance Animals and Service Animals, please see our previous Questions of the Week: "Assistance Animals and Service Animals" and "Can a Landlord Request Proof of a Disability and the Need for an Assistance Animal?"

Legal Line Question: Assistance Animals and Service Animals

Q: I am a licensed New York real estate salesperson and I represent a tenant who requires the assistance of an animal to alleviate her anxiety. The tenant’s building has a "no pet policy" and she did not make a request for a deviation from this policy when she first moved in. Must the landlord permit a variance in the building’s prohibition on animals even though she did not disclose her need at the inception of her residency?
A: Yes, the landlord will likely be required to permit a variance from the building’s pet policy. Under the federal Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), housing providers must allow for a variance in their "rules, policies, practices, or services," if necessary to afford a person with a disability full use and enjoyment of the housing. This includes the use of an Assistance Animal, which the FHA defines as any animal that is "necessary" because of a person’s disability. Consequently, residents and prospective residents do not need to disclose their need for an Assistance Animal at any specific time or in any particular manner. The community’s policy on pet ownership, as well as the resident’s timing or method of making the request, is irrelevant in evaluating whether the accommodation should be made.

A request, made by or on behalf of a person with a disability, to accommodate an animal that is necessary because of that person’s disability should only be denied if the accommodation would be unreasonable. The reasonability of a request is determined on a case-by-case basis. Factors considered include, the cost of the accommodation, the resources of the housing provider (the owner of the property), the benefit to the disabled person, and the availability of alternatives.

Important Tip: It is important to note that the FHA protects the use of Assistance Animals, not only Service Animals. Assistance Animal is a broader term than Service Animal. A Service Animal, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), may only be a dog (or in a few instances a miniature horse) that is trained to do specific tasks for a person with a disability. For example a Guide Dog for a blind person would be considered a Service Animal. On the other hand, an Assistance Animal, as defined by the FHA, can be any species of animal, including but not limited to dogs, and the animal does not need to be specifically trained or certified in any particular way. This classification includes Service Animals, but also includes companion animals, emotional support animals, therapy animals, etc.  For example, a bird who alleviates a person’s depression could qualify as an Assistance Animal, even though it would not qualify as a Service Animal. 

The FHA and ADA should not be confused because they generally apply to different physical locations. The FHA "prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings," while the ADA prohibits discrimination in "employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities."

Neil B. Garfinkel,
REBNY Broker Counsel
Partner-in-charge of real estate and banking practices at Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Zoning 101: New guide demystifies NYC’s byzantine zoning code

If you care about New York’s built environment, then you should care about zoning

Max Touhey
New York City’s zoning code is complex and byzantine, and can be all but impossible to understand. But zoning is also a crucial component in how New York City works, dictating everything from where certain types of buildings can go to how tall those structures can stand. It’s not just something urban planning wonks need to understand; if you care about the built environment, then you should care about zoning.
Still, the raw zoning code is thousands of pages long, and can be difficult for laypeople—or even those who consider themselves well-versed in urban issues—to grasp. The Department of City Planning, the steward of that code, knows this; to make the various rules and regulations governing zoning more digestible, it’s put out a series of Zoning Handbooks, offering plain language translations of the code’s complexities.
And as of today, DCP has unveiled the latest edition of the handbook, providing a comprehensive overview of the way zoning works in New York, while also offering case studies and easy-to-understand explanations (including a glossary!) of the various processes.
According to DCP director Marisa Lago, the new reference tome “helps the public understand New York’s zoning rules, how they meet the changing needs of our growing city, and how the public can participate in the zoning process—all in an easy to read format!”
One big addition for the 2018 edition was an explanation of the city’s affordable housing zoning regulations, Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH). Those changes were made in 2016, and the new handbook provides a clear description of what those are, and how they contribute to the creation and preservation of affordable housing in the city.
Other additions—such as case studies explaining concepts like as-of-right development, or graphics that clearly illustrate the difference between types of commercial and residential districts—go a long way toward demystifying the process. And as more of the city is reshaped by zoning changes (see major efforts in neighborhoods like Far Rockaway or Midtown East), understanding how it works is more important than ever.
The Zoning Handbook is available through DCP for $45, and will also be available at public libraries.

Friday, September 15, 2017

How to find an apartment in NYC: a beginner’s guide

From where to look to what to bring, we’ve got you covered
How to research a New York apartment building before you move in

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Relax Your Stress Away! 11 Ways To De-Stress

Relax Your Stress Away 

11 Ways to De-Stress 

Your shoulders are tense, your back hurts, you feel grouchy and know it’s due to stress. The relaxation techniques described below can help relieve both the physical and emotional tension that often follows stressful situations.

Relax Your Body 

The next time you feel the effects of too much stress, try some of the following ways to help you relax.

1. Deep breathing.
While sitting, lying down or standing, close your eyes and breathe in slowly. Let the breath out for a count of 5–10 seconds. Perform ten of these super-relaxers any time you feel tense.

2. Stretching.
Practice simple stretches such as the “neck stretch” – gently roll your head in a half circle, starting at one side, then dropping your chin to your chest, then to the other side.

3. Exercise.
All kinds of physical activity – hiking, running, bowling, walking, etc. – help to reduce stress.

4. Take a bath.
Ask household members to allow you at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time in the tub.

5. Get a massage.
A massage is a wonderful way to get rid of physical tension. Professional masseuses generally take 30 minutes to an hour to perform a massage, and will work on specific areas of tension, such as the lower back or neck.

6. Eat well.
Reduce your caffeine (found in foods such as coffee, black tea and chocolate) and alcohol intake. Find out if your diet is well balanced and take steps to eat healthily to help reduce stress.

Relax Your Emotions 

Relaxing your emotions can be just as important as relaxing your body in relieving stress.

7. Talk.
Take the time to talk with a friend, mate or child. Express feelings you might have been holding in. Listen carefully to your partner. Walking in a quiet neighborhood or park can limit distractions.

8. Laugh.
Go to a comedy club, see a funny movie or spend time with a funny friend.

9. Cry.
Crying can be as good a release as laughing. If you haven’t cried in a long time, try listening to sad music, watching a sad movie or writing about a sad experience.

10. Read.
A good book is a great escape. Reading a tearjerker or comedy can help release pent-up emotions.

11. Do something you love.
When you enjoy yourself, whether it’s gardening, going to the beach, or seeing friends, you relax your emotions.