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Home · Property Management · Latest News : Understanding Companion Animal Rules

What do a pit bull, a monkey, and a ferret all have in common?

Each has been prescribed as a “companion” animal.  This developing area of law can easily ensnare landlords unfamiliar with the rules, and lead to significant fines for violation of state and local discrimination laws.

Here are some highlights of the companion animal rules:

A tenant or rental applicant with a disability who has been prescribed a companion animal by a person qualified to treat the disability can bring an animal of their choice into the rental unit in order to treat the disability, regardless of any pet rules the landlord may have in place.

What are the limits?

The tenant must be legally disabled.

The tenant cannot choose an animal that is prohibited by any local laws.

The landlord cannot charge a deposit or enforce any pet-related policies under the lease.

The landlord can confirm the disability and the prescription of the animal, but cannot ask about the animal’s training, or argue about the link between the disability and the animal.  For instance, a landlord cannot suggest the tenant get a different animal.

The tenant remains financially responsible for any damage the pet causes. The landlord cannot charge the tenant with a disability a higher security deposit.

If the animal causes a nuisance or threatens others, any provisions in the lease with regard to eviction for nuisance or disturbance can be enforced.

If another tenant suffers an allergy or other illness from the animal, the best avenue may be to document the problem and schedule a preemptive talk with the local housing office — the place where the tenant with a disability will lodge a complaint.   The landlord has a legal duty to try to work something out that accommodates both tenants.

With AAOA, landlords have resources at their fingertips. Check out our Landlord Forms page.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your rental housing investment, including rental forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.

 

  • Brandon

    I have an elderly tenant who recently rented a condo from me. Before renting the place, I told the tenant no dogs or cats were allowed per the HOA’s rule that as of 2009 that…”no new dogs or cats are allowed.” The tenant said they could get a note from their doctor saying their dog was an assistance animal. I told them we could try getting an exception, but I couldn’t guarantee anything, and they said that was fine, if the dog wasn’t allowed, it could live elsewhere.

    Here is the note from the doctor:

    Ms. B**** has been a patient with Senior Care of Colorado since March 2005. During this time, we have treated her for various medical problems. At this time, the patient must plan to move. Through the years, her pet Chihuahua, Scooby has provided great emotional support for her. Her
    dog is s constant companion, and we know that this relationship is very importent for the patient’s mental well-being.

    We urge you to make this exception for Ms. B****, and allow her dog to continue to live with the Patient.

    Signed by Danielle Anderson, PA-C

    We submitted the request for an exception to the HOA. And the HOA responded with:

    The board discussed your request about having a dog at Unit B105. The tenant, as you know, already has a dog at the time of her request. The board has denied your/her request to have a dog on the property per the 2009 Pet rules resolution.

    Now of course the tenant is pretty upset about it. Her daughter says she is very depressed without the dog.

    Do I have any obligation to fight this on behalf of the tenant? Or should I recommend that the tenant could talk to a lawyer or take any other additional measures?

    Brandon

  • Kim

    Hi Brandon,
    The rules say the tenant has to suffer from a disability, and the animal must be “prescribed” as treatment for the disability. It is not clear whether her letter is strong enough to establish that, but for clarification, she could speak with HUD, the local housing office, or an attorney in the area for an opinion on this particular case. Document everything!

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