A recent case has raised questions about whether landlords can legally require proof of a service animal from tenants.
The question was brought to light after a New York City woman filed a lawsuit against her former landlord, who refused to rent to her because she had a guide dog.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued new regulations regarding housing discrimination based on disability.
These rules state that landlords cannot discriminate against disabled individuals or their service animals.
However, these rules don’t apply to rental properties owned by federally recognized tribes. This means that tribal governments can determine their own policies regarding service dogs.
As such, some states allow landlords to ask for proof of a service animal, while others prohibit them from doing so.
Rules In Place To Protect Service Dogs
A landlord cannot discriminate against a tenant because of a disability.
A landlord may request proof of a disability if he believes the tenant is using the accommodation for reasons other than those listed in the Fair Housing Act.
For example, a landlord could require proof of a disability if a tenant claims to need an accommodation due to a mental health condition.
If a tenant does not provide evidence of a disability, the landlord cannot deny tenancy solely on the basis of the absence of proof.
To avoid discrimination, landlords should never assume that all tenants have disabilities.
Generalized Landlord Requirements
Landlords cannot require a form of pet deposit directly for service dogs or your emotional support animals. If damage occurs, the owner will be responsible for the cost of repairs.
Landlords must provide reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities, including pets.
A tenant who brings a service animal or an emotional support animal to rent a unit must show proof of their disability.
The landlord must verify the need for the animal through a licensed and certified mental health provider.
A pet owner must not keep a dangerous dog on the premises unless the dog is properly licensed, vaccinated against rabies, and spayed or neutered.
If the dog is not properly licensed, vaccinated, or spayed/neutered, the tenant will be required to pay an annual $200 fine.
Landlords Must Allow Tenants To Keep Service Dogs
In California, landlords must allow service dogs or emotional support animals unless they threaten someone else’s safety or property.
Tenants also have the right to bring service dogs and emotional support pets to live with them in certain situations.
Homeowners’ associations and landlords may not refuse to make reasonable accommodations if those accommodations are necessary to give someone with a disability the equal chance to live in their homes.
This includes allowing people with disabilities to keep pets that provide assistance.
What Types Of Documentation Can They Ask For?
The following is a list of documents landlords are required to accept when tenants claim that they have a certified service animal.
These documents are different from those required for emotional support animals.
Landlords must accept the following documents: A letter directly from the owner or tenant’s licensed therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist stating that they have a disability and need a service animal.
The letter itself should be an official and certified document from the therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist along with the correct contact information (email address, phone number), license number, and signature.
A letter from the tenant’s licensed therapist, psychologist, or physician stating that they have a physical or mental impairment and need an emotional support animal.
This letter should be an official document from the therapist or physician along with their contact information including their license number and signature.
A letter from a qualified veterinary technician stating that the animal needs to be trained to assist with them In order to help you identify your pet, we recommend taking a picture of them.
You can also get a copy of their microchip number.
Please note that if there is no microchip, then you will need to provide them with an ID card or other form of identification. They may ask you to verify that you own the animal. If you cannot verify ownership, they will not accept your application.
What Will Happen If They Refuse Service Dogs?
It may not always be exactly possible to allow a tenant to bring their service dog into an apartment. If there is a rule against pets, then it could be possible to deny service dogs access.
However, if the landlord allows pets, then the tenant should be allowed to bring a service dog.
Here are a few reasons why they might have the direct right to say no and deny service dogs or evict tenants because of them:
- The tenant is actually not disabled, or cannot exactly prove it with a doctor’s note.
- The assistance service animal is prescribed for the direct treatment of a tenant’s specific condition, or there is a written prescription from a licensed medical provider.
- The assistance and service animal would be causing a burden of sorts.
- The service animal is in any way illegal or not enabled to be kept according to state law.
- The service animal poses an immediate threat or danger to the health and well-being of other or opposing tenants.
- The presence of animals alters the fundamental nature of the landlord’s operation.
- The tenant will not take responsibility for their animal, like cleaning up after it, keeping it confined, or reducing noise issues.
You should make sure to be aware of state and local laws, the standard Fair Housing act, and your own individual requirements for accessibility.
A landlord can refuse to rent to someone who brings a service animal into his or her home. This is called discrimination, and it violates federal and state fair housing laws.
In addition, some states prohibit landlords from discriminating against people with disabilities. It’s important to understand what rights you have as a landlord, so you don’t violate any laws.
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