Are Landlords Required to Allow Service Animals?

Under federal law, landlords are required to provide “reasonable accommodations” based on an individual’s disability.  Disabilities can be mental, emotional, or physical in nature.  Landlords must comply with the Fair Housing Act, and regardless of a pet policy, a landlord may be required to permit a tenant to keep a service animal to accommodate an individual’s disability.

Service animals may assist with mental, emotional, or physical needs.  Additionally, a service animal could include any type of animal that qualifies.  Traditionally people consider service animals to be dogs, but they can also include cats, birds, rabbits, and any other animal that may assist with the person’s disability.  These animals are not considered pets, but working animals.

Under federal law, landlords are required to provide “reasonable accommodations” based on an individual’s disability.  Disabilities can be mental, emotional, or physical in nature.  Landlords must comply with the Fair Housing Act, and regardless of a pet policy, a landlord may be required to permit a tenant to keep a service animal to accommodate an individual’s disability.

Service animals may assist with mental, emotional, or physical needs.  Additionally, a service animal could include any type of animal that qualifies.  Traditionally people consider service animals to be dogs, but they can also include cats, birds, rabbits, and any other animal that may assist with the person’s disability.  These animals are not considered pets, but working animals.

A reasonable request must be accommodated when:

  • The individual has a disability that substantially limits one of more major life activities
  • The animal alleviates one or more of the symptoms of the individual’s disability

A landlord may ask for documentation for the need of the service animal if the disability is not apparent.  Such documentation can come from a doctor or psychiatrist.  However, if the disability is apparent, the landlord may not ask for documentation.  For example, if the individual is blind, or physically disabled, a landlord may not request a doctor’s note.  Additionally, a landlord is not permitted to inquire into or request extensive medical records, but may only request the documentation concerning the disability-related need for a service animal.

It is illegal under the Fair Housing Act for a landlord to discriminate against an individual who requires the use of an emotional support animal by not offering a reasonable accommodation.  Because service animals are not pets, a landlord may not charge a pet fee, but can ask you to pay for any damage the animal causes.

Certain housing is exempt from adhering to the Fair Housing Act, including rental buildings with four or less units if one unit is occupied by the owner; single family homes; and housing that is restricted to members of a certain club or organization.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against by your landlord, or you have been wrongfully evicted or otherwise retaliated against because of your disability, contact an attorney who is well versed in landlord tenant law to discuss your legal rights and remedies.  Call the landlord-tenant lawyers at the Law Office of McGuire & Pelaez, P.C. today at (631) 348-1702.

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