While it’s within a landlord’s right to choose a no-pet policy, it is essential to note that assistance animals, which include both service animals and emotional support animals, are not pets, and cannot be flatly refused. As such, tenants who request a “reasonable accommodation” for their assistance animal, either verbally or in writing, must be granted certain considerations.
An assistance animal 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.
The Fair Housing Act stipulates that the landlord make a reasonable accommodation provided that the tenant has a disability which is defined by the Fair Housing Act as: a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities.
If the disability is not readily apparent, the landlord can request reliable documentation of the disability and the tenant’s disability-related need for the assistance animal. However, the landlord may not ask for medical records or extensive documentation of the tenant’s physical or mental impairments. Furthermore, the Fair Housing Act does not requires that an assistance animal be individually trained or certified by any entity, and so any such documentation should be reviewed carefully by legal counsel to determine its reliability.
Once the need for the assistance animal has been established, the Fair Housing Act requires that the landlord modify or provide an exception to any pet policy. Such exceptions include:
- Allowing the assistance animal(s) in all areas of the premises where persons are normally allowed to go (unless doing so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services).
- Waiving pet deposit, pet rent, or other pet-related fees on the assistance animal(s).
- Waiving breed, size, and weight limitations on the assistance animal(s)
The Fair Housing Act does outline grounds under which a specific assistance animal can be denied, including if the animal in question:
- poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation. This evaluation must be based on an individualized assessment and objective evidence about the animal’s actual conduct and patterns of behavior.
- would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation.
Do you have questions or concerns about pet policies or accommodations for service and support animals? Our experienced attorneys are here to help. Call KSN toll-free at 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com to get started today.
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