Support Animals, Fire Code, and Building Code

On October 17, the Utah Business and Labor Interim Committee met and discussed several issues. They also were presented with hundreds of pages reports detailing financial organizations, technological incentive programs, and the current state of amendments to international fire codes and building codes as adopted by state code, as well as recommended changes to those codes. Having finally read through that material and currently reviewing the transcript from the meeting, this report details the first three issues considered by the committee, which includes discussion related to draft legislation for support animals, suggested amendments to the fire code, and suggested amendments to the building code. 

Draft Legislation “Support Animals Amendments”

The Business and Labor Interim Committee considered draft legislation that amends housing and criminal provisions relating to the use of a service animal or a support animal that provides support for an individual with a disability. The bill was opened as a committee bill earlier this year  in August. 

Jeremy Shorts, Attorney, Utah Apartment Association, is an attorney in Utah County. Mr. Shorts testified that under the current law it’s a Class C misdemeanor to fraudulently claim that an animal is a service animal. A landlord usually has to evaluate and make decisions on requests for accommodation to determine whether a claim is legitimate or not. This bill would also make it a Class C misdemeanor to fraudulently claim that an animal is a support animal. This is to address a significant problem that has been growing year over year by providing a deterrent from people making a fraudulent claim that an animal is a support animal, while also providing legal support for legitimate claims

Nick Jackson, attorney at the Disability Law Center, testified that the center does fair housing work. One of the biggest barriers to housing is the denial of disabled people to reside with their service or support animal. These people face denials of their request for accommodation every single day. Nick stated that fraudulent support animal requests are relevantly rare and that the apparent purpose of the bill is to dissuade people from asserting their rights to have a support animal present. There are at least three other groups that provide fair housing testing in Utah. It is Mr. Jackson’s opinion that this bill would make that testing unlawful. 

The draft was adopted as a committee bill.

Fire Code Recommendations 

For each update of a nationally recognized fire code, Utah Code §15A-1-403 requires the Utah Fire Prevention Board to recommend whether the Legislature adopt the update with any modifications and describe the costs and benefits of each recommended change in the update or in any modification. The Business and Labor interim committee reviewed the board’s recommendation to adopt by statute the 2018 edition of the International Fire Code, with amendments.

Vincent A. Newberg, Chair, Utah Fire Prevention Board, reviewed the proposed recommendations. Among the changes, all fire systems are to be tested together every 10 years. There are also some major changes with photo-arrays that was put into its own chapter. Most of the changes were already in Chapter 6. 

Joey Gilbert with the Associated General Contractors of America, Inc, stated that his group has not had an opportunity to go through the proposed legislation. They are concerned with the recommended fire sprinkler statutes that would be retroactive and the cost to business owners that comes with coming in compliance to that change.

A motion to create a committee bill file under Representative Dunnigan’s name was passed by the committee.


Construction Code Recommendations


Mr. Richard Butz, Cochair, Uniform Building Code Commission, discussed proposed construction code changes from the Uniform Building Code Commission. Mr. Butz went over what they did over the last 9 or 10 months. He said there was give and take on both sides. There are several proposals to the changes of 2015 building code, presenting the summary of proposed changes. The commission was encouraged to look into adopting the code on tiny homes.

Ms. Candace Daly, Utah Beauty School Owners Association, discussed issues with the proposed construction code recommendations. Ms. Daly went through the attachments for the committee. The document is deleting the language of SB145. The language of that bill did allow beauty shops to be cited and fined if they are not maintaining their equipment. All salons are responsible for having ventilation equipment by July 1, 2020. She requests that the incorporated language from SB145 be left in place and to strike the new language.

Mr. Ross Ford, Executive Officer, Utah Home Builders Association, discussed concerns with the construction code recommendations. Mr. Ford said their biggest concern is that there is no cost analysis on the entire change. Because construction costs are skyrocketing, they want to have some estimate of the costs of each of the hundreds of changes.

The next report will cover medical evaluations and home inspector licensing.

Always in Service,


Sophia Hawes-Tingey is Chair of the Community Council of Midvale City, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Transgender Inclusion Project, Legislative Liaison for the Utah Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Co-Chair of the Business and Labor Committee of the Women’s State Legislative Council of Utah, member of the Board of Directors for the Utah Stonewall Democrats,  and co-founder of People Empowered, LLC. You can visit Sophia’s webpage at or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.  

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