Terms You Should Know:

Reasonable Accommodation: Modifications made to existing rules and practices that are necessary for an individual with a disability to have equal opportunity and peaceful enjoyment.

Disabled Person: An individual with a sensory, mental or physical condition that restricts one or more important activities (such as walking, seeing, hearing, working, etc.).

Assistance Animals: HUD compliance guidelines define assistive animals as “animals that serve as a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities by assisting those individuals in some identifiable way by making it possible for them to make more effective use of their housing.”

Service Animals: Assistance animals that are trained to perform certain services or tasks for a disabled person.

Emotional Support: An animal that mitigates the effects of a mental or emotional disability.

Q&A

Q: My property has a no pet policy. Does that include assistance animals and emotional support animals?

A: No. Assistance animals and emotional support animals are not pets.  If the tenant makes a reasonable accommodation request for an assistance animal and/or an emotional support animal, federal law requires you to make the accommodation.

Q: Are there certain breeds or types of animals that cannot be assistance animals?

A: No. Currently there are no breed restrictions for assistance animals.

Q: Are there certain breeds or types of animals that cannot be emotional support animals?

A: No. Currently there are no breed restrictions for emotional support animals.

Q: Are assistance animals required to wear a vest?

A: Assistance animals are not required to wear vests.

Q: Can I verify that an assistance animal is necessary?

A: Yes, if your tenant has a disability that is not readily apparent or known, you may ask your tenant to provide a note from their doctor stating that they have a disability and that they need an assistance animal.  You may not ask the tenant to describe their disability to you or explain how the animal will assist them.  If the tenant refuses to provide documentation for the necessity of an assistance animal, then depending on your lease, you may serve the tenant with the appropriate notice to remove the assistance animal. Please contact a Landlord/Tenant attorney prior to serving such notice.

Q: Can I require that the assistance animal be trained?

A: No. According to HUD, assistance animals do not necessarily need specialized training. At this time, it is not advisable to inquire into assistance animals training once you receive a reasonable accommodation request from a tenant.

Q: Can I limit the number of assistance animals I allow each tenant to have?

A: Tenants with disabilities might require different animals for different purposes. However, tenants should not require multiple animals for the same purpose. You may ask your tenant to provide a note from their doctor stating that they have a disability and that they need an assistance animal.

Q: Can I limit the size of all animals that I allow to occupy my property?

A: No, you cannot limit the weight of an assistance animal or an emotional support animal. Assistance animals and emotional support animals are not pets so your regular rules regarding pets do not apply. This includes all restrictions on weight, breed, and size of service animals.

Q: Does my tenant with an assistance animal have to supervise the animal?

A: Yes, the tenant is responsible for supervising the assistance animal. Improper supervision or repeated bad behavior by the animal can be cause to serve the tenant with the appropriate notice. Please contact a Landlord/Tenant attorney prior to serving such notice.

Q: I have been receiving complaints from my tenants about another tenant’s assistance animal. What am I required to do?

A: You may be able to serve the tenant with a notice if your lease/rental agreement prohibits the tenants from disturbing surrounding tenants or causing a nuisance. The tenant is still responsible for complying with all provisions of the lease/rental agreement and cannot cause or allow a disturbance or nuisance.

Q: My insurance is refusing to cover my rental property because of my tenant’s assistance animal. What can I do?

A: HUD and the Department of Justice released a joint statement that states a reasonable accommodation request is unreasonable if it imposes an undue financial and administrative burden on a housing provider’s operations. If an insurance carrier would increase costs, cancel or cause an adverse change in the policy terms this is seen as an undue financial and administrative burden. However, you are also supposed to determine whether comparable insurance is available in the market.

Q: Can I charge my tenant a pet deposit or an extra high deposit if they have an assistance animal or emotion support animal?

A: No.  Assistance animals and emotional support animals are not considered pets, so you cannot charge the tenant the same fees you would charge a tenant with a pet.  Further, a request for accommodation of assistance animals and emotional support animals may not be unreasonably denied or conditioned on payment of a fee, deposit, or other terms and conditions applied to applicants.

Resources:

HUD’s Notice on Assistance Animals and Reasonable Accommodation Requests

https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/SERVANIMALS_NTCFHEO2013-01.PDF

Americans with Disability Act Information Hotline

800-514-0301 www.ada.gov

***The laws on assistance animals and emotional support animals will change. Make sure you contact a legal professional with any questions you may have. (Simone & Associates 619-235-6180)