HUD tackles websites selling “Worthless” ESA documents

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson is seeking action against online companies that profit from selling false assistance animal documentation.

In a letter sent to U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph J. Simons and Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Andrew Smith, Secretary Carson expresses several concerns in line with those of the property management industry and asks the Federal Trade Commission to investigate some websites selling assistance animal verification documents. As HUD General Counsel Paul Compton states, “These websites are using questionable business practices that exploit consumers, prejudice the legal rights of individuals with disabilities, dupe landlords, and generally interfere with good faith efforts to comply with the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.”

This announcement should not interfere with an applicant or resident’s right to ask for an accommodation for an assistance animal, remember rental housing providers have the right to request reliable documentation when the disability or disability-related need is not readily apparent. We will await further guidance from HUD before altering any policies or procedures for evaluating reasonable accommodation requests but this news is encouraging.

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