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Assistance Animals

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Assistance Animals and Fair Housing

Housing providers, including landlords and homeowner associations, have the right to prohibit pets. Housing providers also must provide a reasonable accommodation to their policies in order to permit an animal recommended for a disability. Under fair housing law, such animals are regarded as tools to aid individuals with disabilities, similar to wheelchairs.
 

The animal may be a trained service animal or may be a companion or therapy animal recommended for a mental or emotional disability. The law in housing is different from the law in public accommodations (restaurants, stores, etc.) where only trained service animals are permitted.
 

The landlord has the right to ensure that the animal is necessary for the disability and may require a written verification from the medical or mental health provider treating the individual. It is possible that a resident will request an accommodation for more than one animal. In this case, the landlord can request verification that both animals are necessary because of a person’s disability.

The assistance animal should be a regular type of household animal, like a dog or a cat. For these animals, landlords may not apply size, weight, or breed restrictions to an assistance animal. If the animal is outside of a normal household animal, there needs to be a clear reason why the animal is needed. For example, capuchin monkeys can be trained to turn light switches on and off and help feed someone who has limited use of their arms and hands.

Landlords can charge a deposit for pets, but not for assistance animals. Landlords may ask residents with an assistance animal to sign an assistance animal agreement. The agreement would typically say that the resident is responsible for the animal’s care and waste pickup and that the animal must not disturb other residents or damage property.

Learn more about assistance animals and fair housing on our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does a landlord have to accept a reasonable accommodation request for more than one assistance animal?
A: Maybe. Landlords must accept reasonable accommodation requests for multiple assistance animals. 
If the tenant has supplied verification from a qualified third party that demonstrates a clear nexus between the person’s disability and the need for multiple assistance animals, the housing provider should accept the accommodation. 

Q: When can a request for an assistance animal be denied?
A: Housing providers are not required to provide any reasonable accommodation that would:

  • pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others
  • result in substantial physical damage to the property of others unless the threat can be eliminated or significantly reduced by a reasonable accommodation
  • pose an undue financial and administrative burden; or
  • fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s operations

Please note: The direct threat provision in the Fair Housing Act requires the existence of a significant risk – not a remote or speculative risk. 

Q: Can a landlord charge pet fees for an assistance animal?
A: No. Assistance animals are not pets and landlords cannot charge pet fees for them. However, landlords can charge a standard security deposit imposed on all tenants; the security deposit cannot be a condition of allowing the applicant to have an assistance animal. Landlords can charge the tenant for the cost of repairs if the animal damages the unit, or deduct those costs from the standard security deposit, if the housing provider has a practice of assessing all tenants for damages caused to the premises. 

Q: Do ADA laws apply to assistance animals in housing?
A: Maybe. ADA laws do not apply to assistance animals on private housing property. However, if the landlord owns common areas that are open to tenants and the public, ADA laws do apply. For example, if the laundry room in an apartment complex is for tenant and public use, ADA laws apply. 

Resources


Guide for People Living with Disabilities / Derechos de vivienda justa para personas que viven con discapacidades
This guide can help people living with disabilities understand their fair housing rights. Topics: Assistance animals, applying to housing, living in housing, moving out of housing (including termination and eviction notices), a landlord’s responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act related to applicants and tenants living with disabilities, etc.
Available in English and Spanish for download on our website. To request printed copies, email information@fhco.org.


New Landlord Guide / Guía Para Nuevos Propietarios Sobre La Ley De Vivienda Justa
This booklet will give landlords basic information on their legal responsibilities under fair housing laws. These are civil rights laws and all landlords are required to follow them, whether you own one single-family home or a three hundred-unit apartment complex. This informational booklet is a first step to teach landlords fair housing basics.
Available in English and Spanish for download on our website. To request printed copies, email information@fhco.org.

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