How to Handle Assistive Animals and Comply with Fair Housing

A common issue these days is how to handle a tenant with “assistive animals” and remain in compliance with Fair Housing.

  1. What is an Assistive Animal under Fair Housing?

Almost anything other than a “pet” is an assistive animal.  Therapy pets, service pets, assistive pets and emotional support animals all qualify for protection under Fair Housing.

  1. What if an Owner has declared a property a pet free property?

You cannot turn down a tenant or refuse to allow them an assistive animal even if the owner wants the property to be “Pet Free.”

  1. How does a Tenant Prove an animal is an Assistive Animal?

You may require that the tenant provide documentation that the animal is an assistive animal.  You cannot ask what disability the tenant has, but you can require proof that the animal is “assistive.”

To prove an animal is assistive you can require a doctor’s note or other similar documentation showing the tenant’s need for the animal.  If the animal provides services outside of emotional support, you can request documentation showing that the animal has been trained or is certified in some way to perform its tasks.

  1. What about a pet deposit?

You cannot charge a pet deposit for an assistive animal.  You may only ask for the standard security deposit.  The tenant is responsible for any damage done to the unit by the animal at the end of the lease or during the course of the lease, but a pet deposit cannot be collected for an assistive animal.

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