Letter to Senator Manny Diaz, Jr.
The Florida Senate
Attn: Senator Manny Diaz, Jr.
10001 Northwest 87th Avenue
Hialeah Gardens, FL 33016
RE: SB 1084
Dear Senator Diaz,
I am proud to serve as the Executive Director of the Community Association Leadership Lobby (“CALL”), a grassroots initiative which, since 2003, has been advocating for the best interests of the millions of Floridians living in community associations. I am writing to you today regarding your proposed statutory changes, which will affect emotional support animals (“ESA”).
On December 2, 2019, you proposed Senate Bill 1084 adding Section 760.27, Florida Statutes, which, among other items, prohibits discrimination in the rental of a dwelling to a person with a disability, authorizes a landlord to request certain written documentation regarding an ESA request, and prohibits the falsification of written documentation or other misrepresentations regarding the use of an ESA. Our CALL members have been seeking relief in this area for quite some time as the number of fraudulent requests for ESAs continues to grow. Over the summer CALL conducted a statewide survey on ESAs and the results confirmed that associations continue to grapple with this problem, often spending limited common funds on fraudulent requests. I have enclosed those results for your convenient review; this data may prove useful to you as you explain the need for SB 1084 at its various committee stops.
In order to better address the problem these fraudulent requests present for so many communities in Florida, Senate Bill 1084 would require a few tweaks.
Under Senate Bill 1084’s proposed language, the Bill’s provisions would apply to a “Landlord,” which is defined as “the owner or lessor of a dwelling.” Many, if not all, Florida community associations are subject to the Fair Housing Act. Therefore, the community associations must provide reasonable accommodations to their pet restrictions when a requestor has proven a disability and related need for an ESA. However, since associations are generally not the “owner or lessor of a dwelling,” the associations may not be subject to the remedies afforded by Senate Bill 1084. I respectfully request that you consider amending Senate Bill 1084 to broaden the definition of “Landlord” to include community associations.
Additionally, under Senate Bill 1084, “[i]f a person’s disability or disability-related need is not readily apparent,” the landlord may “request written documentation prepared by a health care practitioner, as defined in s. 456.001.” According to Section 456.001, “health care practitioner” includes a licensed acupuncturist, dental hygienist, athletic trainers, electrolysis technician, and a masseur or masseuse. While these professions may be integral to the medical profession, I do not believe they would be capable of preparing written documentation verifying that a person has a disability and disability-related need for an ESA. Please consider amending Senate Bill 1084 to narrow the scope of health care providers to only those providers who can produce reliable documentation regarding a person’s disability and disability-related need for an ESA.
I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this matter further and possibly to help draft the necessary amendments. We have thousands of CALL members who will eagerly support passage of your bill when the benefits provided thereunder become clearer to them. Lastly, please do not hesitate to rely upon CALL as an ongoing resource on community association issues.
Donna DiMaggio Berger, Esq.
cc: CALL Team: Anna Cherubin, Michael Casanover & Shayla Mount