My last post, Service Animals/Emotional Support Animals: What You Need to Know, discussed the fact that if you own rental properties, you need to be aware of service and emotional support animal laws. We cover the rules set forth by the ADA, but there are 2 agencies that create regulations regarding these animals:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The Fair Housing Act (FHA)
Here we will discuss the additional laws established by the FHA. Please note that ADA covers commercial areas where FHA covers residential areas. Also, the ADA does not cover emotional support animals, but the FHA does.
The Fair Housing Law – protects tenants from landlord discrimination. Prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or persons with disabilities.
Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) of 1988:
- Service Animal – An animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.
- a service animal does not have to be individually trained or certified
- once an assistance animal is approved, the landlord cannot collect any fees or deposits associated with the pet
- the landlord may not impose breed or weight restrictions on a service animal
What can you require:
- the prospect or resident must have a disability within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act
- there must be a need related to the animal’s disability
- Is the disability apparent or known?
- Is the need related to the animal’s disability apparent or known?
- If both the disability and the disability-related need of the animal are apparent and known, you may not ask any further questions and may not require any additional verification or documentation.
- If the disability is not apparent or known, you may request reliable documentation of the disability and disability-related need of the assistance animal.
For emotional support animals, you may request 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.
You can deny an accommodation request when:
- would cause undue financial hardship to the property
- would create an administrative burden on the property
- the specific animal would be a direct threat to the property or would cause substantial physical damage to the property
- if there is not enough verification when the disability is not apparent
The potential client/tenant can request their animal from you in almost any way, even something as simple as writing their request on a sticky note. There is no formal application form and you cannot require them to use one that you create.
Your next step is to request that the physician or medical provider provide written verification. Again, you don’t have to be on a specific form. You must agree to third party verification that the applicant has a disability within the reliable meaning of the Fair Housing Act and that there is a disability-related need for the animal.
Without sufficient verification, you may deny the applicant. And, be warned, there are plenty of sites online that provide certifications without requiring any verification of disability.
How the ADA and FHAA are different:
- The ADA applies to areas of public accommodation. It does not apply to areas of the property that are not open to the general public. (ie service animals must be allowed into the leasing office).
- The FHAA applies to the entire property. (Qualified service and emotional support animals must be allowed to live in your rental property.)
Most of your concern as a landlord will relate to the regulations set forth by the FHAA.
Wow, there is a lot in those 2 messages. What has been your experience with service animals?
As I mentioned in the last post, this topic was brought up at our HOA Meeting. If you have further questions or need legal assistance in this matter, please contact our speaker, Attorney Sean Doyle, [email protected], 919-256-4295.