Some insurance policies have specific pet breed restrictions and for a housing provider to unilaterally apply these restrictions to assistance animals is ill advised. Why? Assistance animals are not the same as household pets.
Per the FHAct, legitimate assistance animals are for individuals who have a disability and a disability-related need for the animal. HUD issued a memo on June, 12, 2006, titled, Insurance Policy Restrictions as a Defense for Refusals to Make a Reasonable Accommodation.
In this memo, HUD states that in the event a HUD complaint is filed by a Requester (i.e. the individual seeking the reasonable accommodation request),
“the (HUD) investigator must substantiate the housing provider's claim regarding the potential loss of or adverse change to the insurance coverage, by verifying such a claim with the insurance company directly and considering whether comparable insurance, without the restriction, is available in the market.”
Generally speaking, it is the housing provider’s responsibility to be able to prove that they have exhausted all of their insurance coverage options before using this as a reason to deny a reasonable accommodation request. This includes making sure each insurance company a housing provider solicits (we recommend to secure the providers’ answers in writing) is specifically addressing the issue about denying insurance coverage for an assistance animal restricted breed and not a household pet restricted breed. If a housing provider feels that they have exhausted all of their insurance options in their market (i.e. city/town/state) and still cannot find an insurance provider to cover a restricted breed that’s an assistance animal, then the housing provider should be in good shape should a claim be made against them.
We recommend keeping all correspondence between you and the insurance carriers you solicited. Why? To be blunt, the dog poop could hit the fan. The memo goes on to say:
“If the investigator finds evidence that an insurance provider has a policy of refusing to insure any housing that has animals, without exception for assistance animals, it may refer that information to the Department of Justice for investigation to determine whether the insurance provider has violated federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination based upon disability.”
Using an insurance policy’s mandated breed restriction as your sole reason to deny an accommodation request for an assistance animal is a slippery slope. Be cautious. We suggest before you reach your final conclusion that you look once more for an alternate insurance provider. Lastly, before you issue a formal denial, contact us. We can make some insurance recommendations to try and help you navigate this issue. Woof!