We receive a lot of questions from landlords and property owners surrounding service animals and companion animals, and how they differ from pets. There are a lot of legal implications that come with service and companion animals, so it’s important that you’re familiar with the laws and the requirements as they pertain to your rental property.
You may be wondering whether you have to allow pets in your rental. The answer is not as simple as yes or no. While pets are not a protected class and you don’t have to allow tenants to bring their pets, you do have to allow tenants who need assistance from animals to live with those animals. Service animals help people function in their daily lives, and they are protected by fair housing laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Service and Companion Animals
There are a number of different types of service and companion animals. Your tenants who are visually impaired might need a Seeing Eye dog, and other tenants might need the services of a mobility or guide animal or a dog that helps with people who are hearing impaired. Those with mental or psychological disabilities might require a therapy animal to help them cope with their daily lives.
Understanding the Laws
There are a few precautions landlords can take to minimize the liability risk of violating fair housing or other federal laws. First, remember that service animals and companion animals are not pets. Allowing service animals is a common and reasonable accommodation, so even if you don’t allow pets, you must allow these types of animals. You cannot ask for a pet deposit or increase the rent for tenants who have service animals or companion animals living at the property. If there is damage left behind by the animal, you can pay for it from the regular security deposit, but you cannot require any additional pet deposits or pet fees.
Remember that service animals and companion animals can be any type of breed. Most people think of dogs when they think of service animals. However, tenants may also have a miniature horse, which is the size of a dog and a very intelligent animal. A miniature horse can be housebroken and tends to live longer than most dogs. Poisonous or illegal animals are not reasonable and are likely not service or companion animals.
If you’re working with a property management company, your property manager is probably familiar with the laws surrounding these animals. If you’re a self managing landlord or you have any additional questions, please contact us at Valley Oak Property Management. We’d be happy to tell you more.