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Home · Property Management · Latest News : Pet Policies vs. Companion Animals

HUD has issued new rules clarifying the responsibilities landlords shoulder regarding companion animals in rental properties.

The newly released Å“Notice on Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-Funded Programs discusses how the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) intersect regarding the use of service or assistance animals by persons with disabilities.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating based on disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and familial status. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and state and local government activities.

Both laws contain provisions which address the use of service or assistance animals by people with disabilities. While the Fair Housing Act covers nearly all types of housing, some types of housing, such as public housing, are covered by both laws.

John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, says Å“Disability-related complaints, including those that involve assistance animals, are the most common discrimination complaint we receive.”

HUD„¢s new notice explains housing providers obligations under the Fair Housing Act, including the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities who require assistance animals. Pet restrictions cannot be used to deny or limit housing to people with disabilities who require the use of an assistance animal because of their disability. Housing providers must grant reasonable accommodations in such instances, in accordance with the law.

According to the notice, two threshold questions must be addressed when a tenant asks for a companion animal:

1. Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability ” i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

2. Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability?

If the answer to question (1) or (2) is “no,” then the law does not require a modification of an existing “no pets” policy, and the reasonable accommodation request may be denied.

However, if the answer to these questions is “yes”, the landlord must modify or provide an exception to a “no pets” policy to permit a person with a disability to live with and use an 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.

A request for companion animal also may be denied if: (1) the specific assistance animal in question poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, or (2) the specific assistance animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation. Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal.

A determination that an assistance animal poses a direct threat of harm to others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others must be based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct ” not on mere speculation or fear about the types of harm or damage an animal may cause and not on evidence about harm or damage that other animals have caused. Conditions and restrictions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals. For example, while housing providers may require applicants or residents to pay a pet deposit, those rules cannot be applied to companion animals.

Landlord cannot deny a reasonable accommodation request because they’re not certain whether the person seeking the accommodation has a disability or a disability-related need for an assistance animal. Housing providers may ask individuals who have disabilities that are not readily apparent or known to the provider to submit reliable documentation of a disability and their disability-related need for an assistance animal.

If the disability is readily apparent or known but the disability-related need for the assistance animal is not, the housing provider may ask the individual to provide documentation of the disability-related need for an assistance animal. For example, the housing provider may ask persons who are seeking a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal to provides emotional support to provide documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability. Such documentation is sufficient if it establishes that an individual has a disability and that the animal in question will provide some type of disability-related assistance or emotional support.

However, a landlord may not ask a tenant or applicant to provide documentation showing the disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal if the disability or disability-related need is readily apparent or already known to the provider.

A housing provider also may not ask an applicant or tenant to provide access to medical records or medical providers or provide detailed or extensive information or documentation of a person’s physical or mental impairments.

While HUD makes it clear that private landlords have a legal duty under the Fair Housing Act to accept any qualifying companion animal into a rental property, the Department of Justice has narrowed its definition of service animals allowed into government and educational facilities under the ADA, to “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Emotional support animals are expressly precluded.

Click here to read the full notice.

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  • nathalie

    I just want to know if I have three little dogs that are my children to me if I call to rent a place are they allowed to refuse me? I’ve bine looking for 5 months now and everybody refuses because I have pets and I need to get out of were I live now. I live in mtl I just want to know please

  • Roger Williams

    Ypu have them certified as emotional support animals I’m not sure of you can do that with 3 of them I have panic attacks and depression I got my German Shepherd certified as a service dog and I am still being discriminated about it…

  • Karen Hassett

    I live in a park that has a “doggie section” but my park model home (in Arizona) is not in that section. My doctor has given me a note that says “due to a medical condition” I require a “companion dog”. The owner of the park is telling me that a “reasonable accommodation” is offering to allow me to move my park model home to the dog section of the park, splitting the cost of such move. Are they obligated to allow me to have my dog in my home where it sits? Also, is my doctor’s letter sufficient?

  • Trina Okerson

    So I am currently staying at a hotel, which does not accommodate Emotional Support Animals, cats in particular.

    However, the room we are in is technically an apartment: it is called an apartment by the hotel.

    Next week, we are signing an actual lease. Putting down a full deposit, paying rent and signing a 30 day lease.

    At this point, is our suite still considered a hotel, or does it then become an apartment? And if it does, does that mean they are required to accommodate my ESA cat?

  • Jockoliveson1

    What can “We” do who have legitimate ESA letters from our own physicians/psychiatrists where a patient/doctor ‘history has been established and a ‘prescription’ letter has been written – WHEN there are many SCAM, FRAUDULENT ESA websites/facebook sites for $$$ giving 10 minute dx’es and writing fake ESA letters from afar? We want these Fraudulent sites SHUT DOWN! Who can we contact – how can we do this? These sites are a real disservice to landlords/property mgrs and to airlines and makes it more difficult for us who have ‘legitimate’ dx’s and ESA letters! PLS Help Us shut these ‘fake’ sites down!

  • Diane Chandler

    I have already allowed my tenants to have 1 dog and 1 cat in their 2 bedroom apt. They have other rental property where they have 2 cats living in their rented store property. They are now closing the store and would bring 2 additional cats into their apt. totaling 3 cats and 1 dog not including the cat that I have owned for 18 years living in my upstairs apt. I have told them that I do not welcome 2 additional cats, as I already frequently smell pet odor ect. We had the discussion and now that I do not want 4 cats and a dog living in my home. I was informed that they are filing for the emotional pet act. and I have no say and she will send me the paper work. Neither tenant is disabled, and even if can 3 cats (2 were stray) be classified as emotionally needed? I feel 3 cats and a dog is excessive and they are looking for loopholes, as It is difficult to find anyone who would approve of 4 pets in an apt unless you live on a farm. Thanks for any advice- as I know that I am getting screwed.

  • disqus_UuishN3ZfL

    I have installed a Binding arbitration clause in my lease and now will require everyone who wants to see an apartment must sign it prior to being shown the unit. My lease and clause is specific to Louisiana but if you wish to see a copy email me at [email removed]

  • disqus_UuishN3ZfL

    Here is your answer
    10.1 BINDING ARBITRATION: For and in partial consideration of the leasing of said premises to Lessee, Lessee agrees that in the event of any controversy between Lessor, Lessor’s agents and employees, and Lessee, his agents, employees, invitees or third persons on the leased premises, or the heirs at law or personal representatives of Lessee arising out of any and all claims, demands, liabilities and actions resulting or alleged to result from any breach, violation or non-compliance with the Fair Housing Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act, or any such action alleging discrimination under the laws of the United States of America or the State of Louisiana, in connection with the use or occupancy of the leased premises, the same shall be submitted to binding arbitration. With fifteen (15) days after any of the above actions, claims or evernt in paragraphs 4 through 10, the aggrieved party shall give written notice to the other of demand for arbitration of said controversy; the parties to the controversy shall each appoint an arbitrator and give notice of such appointment to the other. Within fifteen (15) days after such notices have been given, the two arbitrators so selected shall select a neutral arbitrator who is an attorney, licensed to practice law in the State of Louisiana, or a notary, commissioned in the Parish in which the leased premises are located, and give notice of the selection thereof to the parties. The arbitrators shall hold a hearing within ninety (90) days of the date of notice of selection of the neutral arbitrator. All notices or other papers required to be served shall be served by certified United States Mail. Except as herein provided, the arbitration shall be conducted and governed by the Louisiana Arbitration Law, La R.S. 9:4201 et seq. The taking of testimony and presentation of evidence at the arbitration hearing shall be governed by the dispute arising from an alleged act of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, or any such dispute alleging discrimination under the laws of the United States of America or the State of Louisiana occurring during the term of this contract or renewal terms thereof and shall be resolved in accordance with this contract regardless of when the dispute arose.

  • disqus_UuishN3ZfL

    10.1 BINDING ARBITRATION: For and in partial consideration of the leasing of said premises to Lessee, Lessee agrees that in the event of any controversy between Lessor, Lessor’s agents and employees, and Lessee, his agents, employees, invitees or third persons on the leased premises, or the heirs at law or personal representatives of Lessee arising out of any and all claims, demands, liabilities and actions resulting or alleged to result from any breach, violation or non-compliance with the Fair Housing Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act, or any such action alleging discrimination under the laws of the United States of America or the State of Louisiana, in connection with the use or occupancy of the leased premises, the same shall be submitted to binding arbitration. With fifteen (15) days after any of the above actions, claims or evernt in paragraphs 4 through 10, the aggrieved party shall give written notice to the other of demand for arbitration of said controversy; the parties to the controversy shall each appoint an arbitrator and give notice of such appointment to the other. Within fifteen (15) days after such notices have been given, the two arbitrators so selected shall select a neutral arbitrator who is an attorney, licensed to practice law in the State of Louisiana, or a notary, commissioned in the Parish in which the leased premises are located, and give notice of the selection thereof to the parties. The arbitrators shall hold a hearing within ninety (90) days of the date of notice of selection of the neutral arbitrator. All notices or other papers required to be served shall be served by certified United States Mail. Except as herein provided, the arbitration shall be conducted and governed by the Louisiana Arbitration Law, La R.S. 9:4201 et seq. The taking of testimony and presentation of evidence at the arbitration hearing shall be governed by the dispute arising from an alleged act of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, or any such dispute alleging discrimination under the laws of the United States of America or the State of Louisiana occurring during the term of this contract or renewal terms thereof and shall be resolved in accordance with this contract regardless of when the dispute arose.

  • Jockoliveson1

    Hotels, Motels, temporary dwellings are not accepted per The Fair Housing Act.

  • Karalyn Wharton

    They can file sadly. There is no limit to Service dogs or Emotional Support animals. If a doctor deems removing one animal will give the person additional stress and impair their health. You have to accept those animals. Now if city or county law states your only allowed certain amount of animals they have to get rid of one

  • Lynn Marie Collver

    I need to know what I should file here in Iowa . I am in senior housing . Have 2 congenial med. Size dogs . I took in a kitten and it is really important to me . I lost everything last yr that I have ever owned at 65 yrs old . The kitten is comfort . The dogs are exercise and companions
    I keep the apt in good condition
    The mgr here insists I have 4 days to find kitten a home . 8 -18 -2017 is the last day .. then what I do not know .

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