You manage a building with a no-pet policy. A resident walks into your office and proclaims that she needs to have a companion animal, a big Siberian Husky, right now. Your inclination is to tell her no way, because you don't allow any pets, and certainly not a big dog. What should you do?
Recently, there have been many more requests from residents and applicants for service animals. In the past, these primarily involved seeing-eye dogs, but now there are numerous requests for emotional support or comfort animals, which are primarily dogs or cats, but can also be other animals such as birds, monkeys or iguanas.
Various studies have demonstrated that emotional support animals can assist in the treatment of physical and mental illness. They can help decrease depression, stress and anxiety. An increasing number of hospitals now allow pets on their floors to comfort patients.
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It's time for the annual apartment inspection, so you open the door and go in. Only then do you realize you have just entered the twilight zone.
You look around and can't believe what you see. To the right, floor-to-ceiling stacks of papers, magazines and books. To the left, enormous piles upon piles of clothes and bags. You step further into the living room and can now see the door to one of the bedrooms, but realize the room is completely inaccessible because of the mountains of stuff. You peek into the bathroom -- the tub is full of clothes and papers. The kitchen stove is covered with open food, magazines and boxes. There is evidence of roaches and mice all around. The apartment is a disaster.
The resident is a hoarder.
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Article by Kenneth Krems for Massachusetts Bar Association Property Law, Section News
The duties of landlords and the rights of tenants in handicapped discrimination law are defined by a complex mixture of state and federal law. Each of the applicable laws, however, is based upon the premise of equal opportunity in housing for the disabled. Equal opportunity is achieved by offering qualified disabled persons reasonable accommodations to account for their disability. Massachusetts courts have been applying the reasonable accommodation standard in decisions, which are beginning to define the contours of the law with regard to handicapped discrimination in housing.
In one case, a landlord brought a summary process complaint in Boston Housing Court against a tenant alleging that the tenant was disturbing the quiet enjoyment of the other tenants by playing loud music and carousing during the night. The defendant answered that the landlord had violated the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by failing to offer a reasonable accommodation. The Rehabilitation Act was operative because the landlord was the recipient of federal funds.
Article by Kenneth Krems for New England Assisted Housing Management Association publication
Section 504, The ADA. What do these laws mean? How do they impact a landlord's obligation to the tenants? These are questions landlords have struggled with for the last few years, and these questions are still difficult to answer. As more cases are decided, however, there are more guidelines for landlords to follow. Several of the most recent cases have been decided in favor of landlords.
One case which emphasized the need for reasonable accommodation was decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1991. In that case, a 77-year-old female tenant suffered from a mental disability which caused her to hear voices. In response, she would hit the walls of her apartment with a broom or stick and throw objects at the walls. This activity did relatively minor damage to the unit and did not substantially interfere with the quiet enjoyment of other tenants. The Court held that the landlord could not evict the tenant, but had to accommodate her by giving her further opportunities to obtain counseling to help her control the behavior.