Your standard lease may state that your tenant is not entitled to a pet at the premises. Or, if a pet is allowed, your lease may require a pet deposit or monthly fees for a pet. But, what if your tenant has a service and/or assistance animal? Here is what you should know:
- What is a service and/or assistance animal?
An assistance animal is granted access to dwellings and is defined as an animal that works 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 (HUD FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01)
- Is my property subject to allowing a service/and or assistance animal?
Most likely, under the Fair Housing Act 42 USC Sections 3601-3631 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 USC Section 701. Assistance animals are allowed in nearly all types of dwellings with few exceptions, including residential common areas and programs receiving federal funds.
- What are the specifications for a service and/or assistance animal?
Animals of any species, breed or size can be assistance animals. Assistance animals do not need to be trained and there is no special certification or registration necessary. There is no government sanctioned registration or certification for assistance animals. However, assistance animals must provide a benefit directly related to the individual’s disability.
- Can I charge a fee for a service and/or assistance animal?
Assistance animals are not subject to a pet fee, pet rent or extra pet security deposit.
- How can I verify a service and/or assistance animal is legitimate?
If a disability or need for the animal is not obvious, you can request reliable documentation of the person’s disability and related need for assistance animal. You cannot require the applicant to reveal the diagnosis and you cannot require access to the applicant’s medical records or the medical provider.
- When can a request for a service and/or assistance animal be denied?
The request can be denied for the following reasons: the housing isn’t FHA, the animal’s owner cannot provide reliable documentation of the disability or need for assistance animal, the request causes an undue financial or administrative burden, the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, the animal isn’t under control, the animal causes damage or creates a nuisance, the request “fundamentally alters” the nature of the services to residences, or the owner doesn’t follow local licensing, registration, or public health requirements for the assistance animal.
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