Finally, the Florida legislature passed a bill regulating the out of control problem of Emotional Support Animals in Florida’s community associations.  SB 1084 was signed into law by Governor DeSantis on July 1, 2020, and takes effect immediately.  The new law provides for the following (a copy of SB 1084 can be found here):

1.  Amends Florida’s Fair Housing Act by prohibiting a housing provider, to the extent required by federal law, rule, or regulation, to deny housing to a person with a disability or a disability-related need who has an animal that is required as support. It defines emotional support animal as an animal that is not required to be trained to assist a person with a disability but, by virtue of its presence, provides support to alleviate one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.

2.  The bill prohibits a housing provider from charging a person with an emotional support animal additional fees. It does allow a housing provider to prohibit the animal if it poses a direct threat to the safety, health, or property of others and to request written documentation that reasonably supports that the person has a disability. The supporting information may be provided by any federal, state, or local government agency, specified health care practitioners, telehealth providers, or out-of-state practitioners who have provided in-person care or services to the tenant on at least one occasion. If a person requests to keep more than one emotional support animal, the housing provider may request information regarding the specific need for each animal and may require proof of licensing and vaccination requirements for each animal.

3.  The bill prohibits a housing provider to request information that discloses the diagnosis or severity of a person’s disability or any medical records relating to the disability. The housing provider is authorized to develop a routine process for reasonable accommodation requests relating to emotional support animals, but prohibits the denial of a request based only on a tenant’s failure to use a specific form or process.

4.  The bill creates a new cause for disciplinary action against a health care practitioner’s license for providing supporting information for an emotional support animal, without personal knowledge of the patient’s disability or disability-related need. It also creates the misdemeanor crime of providing false or fraudulent emotional support animal information or documentation, and requires a convicted person to perform 30 hours of community service for an organization serving persons with disabilities, or another entity or organization the court determines appropriate.

by Joshua G. Gerstin, Esq. of Gerstin & Associates