There appears to be more people in the U.S. who live with a pet than ever before. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is carefully looking into this topic as it pertains to renters. In fact, HUD has already published an 8 page guide titled “Resident Rights” that every property manager should become familiar with. You’ll be hard pressed to find any mention about the right to have pets. On page 7 is a list of resource phone numbers for a number of services and ways to verify information on the rights and responsibilities of residents from a federal government perspective.
The newest challenge regarding pets involve the categories of “service,” “companion” and “therapy” animals. Service, companion or emotional support animals fall within the definition of assistance animals under the Housing and Urban Development’s guidelines. Like it or not these guidelines are also adopted in many states in defining the rights of tenants and residents. The legalities and the responsibility to make “reasonable accommodation” are daunting.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Department of Justice narrowed the definition of a service animal as “… as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” However, a housing provider [landlord] “… may not ask a tenant or applicant to provide documentation showing the disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal if the disability or disability-related need is readily apparent or already known to the provider.”
Current laws are clear – assistance animals (or PTSD animals) are not required to have training or certification, an owner can ask for reasonable documentation from a doctor, the ADA requires a service animal to be a dog, and under Fair Housing Laws an emotional support animal can be any animal. An owner/property manager is allowed to ask what disability the tenant has. No pet deposits are allowed for service or assistance animals. The pet owner is responsible for the animal and no breed restriction can be set. If an animal displays aggressive behavior, tenant can be required to remove the pet, but can replace the pet with the same breed.
Fair Housing and ADA tries to make rulings/determinations within 100 days. An owner’s insurance policy cannot cancel a policy for a service animal that is aggressive breed. AND … the “pet” cannot be listed as a pet under the lease, but as an “occupant.”
The bottom line is to know the laws as well as the rights of all involved.
Don’t forget – contact Efurd Properties anytime with questions – we will answer or call you back, it’s a promise!