Archive for the ‘Housing’ Category

Service dog and psychiatric service dog owners have the right under the Americans with Disabilities Act to access public areas and venues that normally don’t allow pets. Service dogs can also board flights free of charge according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s regulations.  

But did you know federal and state housing laws also protect that service dogs? If you own a service dog, your animal must be allowed to live with you even if your building bans pets. 

Under housing laws, service dogs are not considered “pets” and are exempt from most pet policies, such as rules that restrict the size and weight of animals in a building. Service dog owners also can’t be charged any fees or deposits by a housing provider. 

We’ll explain these housing laws, how you qualify as a service dog owner, and what rights you have as a tenant. 

What housing laws protect service dog owners?

The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that protects disabled tenants from discrimination. The U.S. Department of Housing (HUD) issues guidelines that instruct housing providers on accommodating tenants with service dogs or psychiatric service dogs. 

The Fair Housing Act is applicable to every state in the United States. In addition, many states have enacted their housing laws that protect service dog owners, adding an additional layer of protection. These laws often mirror HUD’s protections. For example, California, New York, and Florida each have housing laws that recognize and protect service dog owners. 

What type of housing is covered by Fair Housing rules for service dogs?

The Fair Housing Act applies to most types of housing, including rentals, condos, co-ops, and HOAs. However, there are exceptions: Certain landlords are exempt, such as owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent.

How do you qualify for a service dog?

There are two aspects to qualifying for a service dog:

You must have a physical or mental health disability. Your own a service dog that is fully trained to assist with that disability. 

Physical disabilities include blindness, deafness, and mobility limitations. Psychiatric disabilities include conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, learning disorders, phobias, or panic disorders that substantially limit a major life activity.

A licensed healthcare professional is best suited to evaluate whether you meet the criteria for having a psychiatric disability. If you qualify, you can get a PSD letter, a signed letter from a licensed health professional that sets out whether you meet the requirements for having a mental health disability. 

The second criteria for owning a service dog are that your dog must be fully trained to perform a task that assists your disability. It must also be trained to behave properly in public settings. The service dog training can be done on your own or with the help of a professional trainer or organization. 

Service dogs that help with physical disabilities perform tasks like pulling a wheelchair, guiding the visually impaired, alerting the owner of a rise or drop in blood sugar levels, providing stability while going up and down stairs or other hazardous areas, and retrieving items. 

Psychiatric service dogs perform tasks like pawing or licking to calm their handlers during periods of distress, reminding them to take medication, interrupting panic attacks or “spells,” and interrupting repetitive or self-destructive behaviors. 

Want to know if you qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog?Get the assessment from a licensed professional. How can a landlord verify that you have a service dog?

Under HUD’s rules, your landlord can only verify if you have a service dog in a few specific ways. 

If it is readily apparent that your dog is trained to perform tasks for the benefit of your disability, then your landlord is not allowed to ask any questions and must accept that your dog is a service animal. Examples of this include if the dog is guiding an individual with low vision, is pulling a wheelchair, or assists with stability to someone with an obvious mobility disability. 

However, with psychiatric service dogs, it’s not always immediately apparent by visual inspection if the person is disabled and what the dog has been trained to do. In these circumstances, the housing provider can ONLY ask two questions: 

Is the animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

HUD guidelines are very clear that landlords cannot ask about the nature or extent of the tenant’s disability and cannot ask for any type of documentation. Tenants have a right to confidentiality regarding their medical details and history. 

If you have a service dog or psychiatric service dog, it can be helpful to have service dog paraphernalia like ID cards, vests, and tags. They are especially helpful in buildings that restrict or ban pets since they signal to other tenants that your dog is a service dog. These items assist service dog handlers who want to avoid intrusive inquiries about why they have a dog on the premises. 

Under housing laws, service dogs are exempt from most pet policies and can live with you in most housing types. What rights do service dog owners have in residential buildings?

Landlords must reasonably accommodate service dog and psychiatric service dog owners, even if the building bans all animals. They cannot restrict service dogs solely because they are a certain weight, size, or breed. Service dog owners are also exempt from paying any pet fees or deposits. As a tenant, you have the right to bring a service dog into your home before or after signing the lease.

These rights, however, are not absolute. There are circumstances where a landlord can deny the accommodation of a service dog. For example, if the service dog has exhibited dangerous behavior towards other people or has caused significant property damage, it may be grounds for rejecting a service dog. A service dog should never have these issues, as a fully trained service dog must be capable of behaving at all times and around other people and animals. 

Do you need to register a service dog for housing?

Registering a service dog is an optional step for service dog owners. Landlords cannot insist on it as a prerequisite to granting accommodation. However, it is common for service dog owners to use items like ID cards, tags, vests, and harnesses to signal that their dog is a service animal. This can be especially useful if you live in a building that doesn’t allow dogs or has other pet restrictions. Having service dog accessories puts the other tenants and building staff on notice that you have a disability-related need for your canine. 

Airbnb has exploded in the past few years. These vacation rentals are a favorite for families and singles alike as they offer the comforts of home without the hassle of a hotel lobby. If you’re thinking about traveling with your service dog, you might find yourself wondering if you can stay at an Airbnb with your service dog. 

Peruse the Airbnb website, and you’re bound to find at least one or two homes that pique your interest. If your questions about service dogs are keeping you from booking an Airbnb stay, then continue reading. You may find the answers you’re looking for. 

Airbnb Hosts Allow Service Animals 

Airbnb utilizes a strict “Nondiscrimination Policy” that instructs the hosts to reasonably accommodate reservations with service animals. Service animals are not pets. Therefore, a host must allow a service animal to stay even if their listing states that “no pets” are allowed. Like hotels, Airbnb must follow ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), a federal law that prevents discrimination against people with physical or mental disabilities.  In short, service animals are welcome at Airbnb.

How Does Airbnb Define a Service Animal? 

Airbnb places service animals under the umbrella term of “assistance animal.” According to Airbnb, assistance animals include service animals and emotional support animals (ESA) and fall under Airbnb’s Nondiscrimination Policy. It states that a service animal is a dog that receives training to perform a task to help a person with a disability. Some examples of service animal tasks are: 

Helping someone who is vision impaired.  Alerting people who have a hearing impairment.  Assisting someone who has a seizure disorder.  Retrieving items that have fallen.  Helping someone with a neurological or psychiatric illness by preventing destructive actions.  Alerting people with diabetes of dangerous blood sugar levels. 

An emotional support animal, on the other hand, does not receive training to complete a task, but they are part of a person’s medical treatment and provide vital comfort. Whether they qualify as service animals or ESA, all assistance animals can stay at an Airbnb with their handler. 

As stated in Airbnb’s Nondiscrimination Policy legitimate service dogs can stay at Airbnbs. Can an Airbnb Host Deny a Service Animal? 

For the most part, an Airbnb host may not refuse a service animal. A service animal can be denied or removed from the property for the following reasons: 

If an animal is not under the control of its handler, and measures the handler takes are not effective.  If an animal is not housebroken. 

However, if an Airbnb is a shared space and a service animal would create a health hazard to the host or others, Airbnb will not require the host to allow a service animal. Airbnb encourages their hosts to disclose information about shared spaces, health concerns, and service animals within their listing. By doing so, the host provides future guests with enough information to decide what’s best for them. 

If a host must ask to remove a service animal for the above reasons, the guest must receive an offer to stay on the premises without the service animal. Also, due to safety concerns, assistance animals must always have supervision.

 

Can an Airbnb Host Ask for Documentation? 

Documentation isn’t required for a service animal to stay at an Airbnb. However, a host may ask the following two questions: 

What task is the service animal trained to do?  Is the service animal required because of a disability? 

Disclosure of the presence of a service animal isn’t necessary before booking an Airbnb. However, the company encourages guests to communicate their animals’ presence when booking to foster an environment of transparency. In addition, when traveling overseas and staying at an Airbnb with a service animal, it’s vital to check on the service animal laws for that country.

Can an Airbnb Host Ask For Extra Fees? 

An Airbnb host cannot charge pet fees or additional fees because of a service animal’s presence. They are not allowed to charge any fees that pertain to the service animal. When it comes to damages or repairs, any costs incurred should align with any damages or injuries that other guests without a service animal or pet would be held responsible for. 

What Should You Do if You Were Denied a Reservation Because of a Service Animal? 

Airbnb seeks to welcome all people and does not condone any types of discrimination. If a customer feels they’ve experienced discrimination due to their service dog or condition, they can submit a report to the company through a form

The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating based on disability. Housing providers can never charge a fee or deposit just because a tenant needs a service dog.

Seeking a Home with a Service Animal

Imagine the following scenario: A tenant is accepted in a rental building and discloses that she has a service dog: a trained Golden Retriever that monitors her for impending seizures. In compliance with their federal Fair Housing obligations, the landlord agrees to accommodate the service dog even though the building prohibits all dogs over 12 pounds. 

However, the landlord says he will have to charge a pet security deposit. In addition, the building charges a monthly pet fee, but the landlord says he will give the tenant a 20% discount. Lastly, the landlord charges an application fee for considering the tenant’s request to live with their service dog. 

Were the landlord’s actions in compliance with HUD’s rules for service dogs? Let’s assess this situation with the following four questions.

1. What Does the Federal Fair Housing Act Say?

Do the pet fee and pet security deposit requested by the landlord, even at a discounted rate, violate the Federal Fair Housing Act? 

According to the Federal Fair Housing Act, a landlord discriminates against a person with a disability if the landlord refuses to provide “reasonable accommodation” for their service animal without a valid exemption. Service dogs are not considered pets under HUD’s rules, but rather assistance animals needed by people with physical or mental health disabilities. Service dogs that are used for mental health conditions are known as psychiatric service dogs

Under HUD’s guidelines, landlords can never charge a fee or deposit for a tenant’s service animal. That is true even if the building charges a fee or deposit for all pets. Landlords cannot offer a discounted rate for waiving any pet fee, or charge an application fee for considering the service dog. 

The idea behind this rule is that it would be unfair and discriminatory to charge a person a fee or deposit just because they have a disability requiring a service animal. To charge an additional fee for the service animal would be like charging an individual for using a cane or a wheelchair — the service dog is a vital tool to the owner to overcome the challenges of their disability.

Charging a pet security fee or a pet deposit for a service animal is unethical and illegal.

Service Dog Certifications

2. How Does a Service Animal Relate to a Person’s Disability?

Service dogs are used by people with both physical and mental health disabilities. To have an official service dog, an individual must have a qualifying disability and a fully trained dog that can perform one or more tasks or jobs related to their condition. 

There are countless vital tasks that service animals perform for their owners. For example, a service dog can be trained to pull a wheelchair or provide guidance for someone with visual impairments. A psychiatric service dog can be trained to retrieve medications, provide calming tactile stimulation during moments of crisis or interrupt panic episodes.

3. Who Pays for Damages? 

Does this mean that a person with a disability would never need to pay for damages caused by their service animal? No, service dog owners are always responsible for the actions of their animals. No matter how well-trained a service animal is, they’re still animals. Accidents can happen. If the rental property sustains damage (aside from usual wear and tear) from a service animal, the service dog owner would be held responsible. If the tenant had deposited a standard security deposit under their lease, the landlord might collect for damages from that amount.

It’s always essential, in any residence, for service animal owners to respect the property and the rights of others around them. 

Service Dog Certifications

4. How do you prove that you own a service dog?

If you own a service dog, the landlord can ask two questions for verification: 

Is the dog a service dog required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Landlords cannot insist on documentation for service dogs. However, you may have seen service dog owners carry items like ID cards, vests, certificates, and tags. These items are used by service dog owners to publicly signal that their animal is a working service animal. Still, this paraphernalia does not by itself elevate a dog to service animal status. 

Service dog equipment can be especially helpful in buildings that ban pets since other residents will be curious about why your service dog has been allowed on the premises. Having items that clearly indicate your dog is a service dog can alleviate any potential confusion and tension with other residents.