You will come across a prospective tenant that has a service animal or assistance/companion animal. Landlords cannot deny an application solely because of this. Charging any additional deposits or fees associated with the animal is a violation of the law. In addition, restricting the type or breed of the animal is prohibited. By doing any of the above you are violating the Federal Fair Housing Act that eventually will result in a very costly lawsuit.
In fact you must think of a service/assistance/companion animal as a prescription not a pet.
Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities per the ADA.
Assistance animals are not pets. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability according to HUD.
However, here’s what you can do…
Require proof of the need for the animal.
- Paperwork outlining the need for the animal should be required. Additionally, this paperwork should be completed by a Heath Care Provider. You do not need to take their word. Your paperwork must be approved by an attorney who has extensive Fair Housing knowledge. In fact, certain questions cannot be asked.
Require tenants to sign an animal agreement.
- Your agreement must clearly emphasize your expectations of the tenant when caring for the animal. Always include policies concerning waste disposal, noise, leash requirements, etc.
Do periodic inspections.
- Periodic inspections determine if the tenant and the animal are in compliance with the animal agreement.
Finally, educate yourself and stay up to date with the Federal Fair Housing Laws.
Written By: Erin Trojanowski