Posts Tagged ‘fair housing act’

The Federal Fair Housing Act does not allow landlords to discriminate based on disability. However, the scenarios surrounding this law may not appear cut and dry; each situation can look different. Therefore it is essential to look at every scenario individually and take action accordingly. 

Seeking a Home with a Service Animal

Let’s go over a common event when landlords accept service animals but still require a pet security deposit.

Typically, a landlord —or their designee—schedules a rental unit showing with a prospective tenant. When the tenant attends the showing, she brings her Golden Retriever with her. She discloses that her dog is trained to monitor her for impending seizures. The landlord happily approves the tenant for the rental. However, the landlord also expects a pet security deposit, to ensure that the unit remains in good condition. The landlord states that they can offer her 20% off the usual pet fee and pet security deposit because her dog is a service dog. 

1. What Does the Federal Fair Housing Act Say?

Does the pet fee and pet security deposit request, even at a discounted rate, violate the Federal Fair Housing Act? 

According to the Federal Fair Housing Act, a landlord discriminates against a disability if the landlord refuses to provide “reasonable accommodation.” This means an individual with a disability should have the same opportunities to live within a rental as a person without a disability. 

Since the service animal performs a specific task required for a disability, the Golden Retriever is more than a pet. The dog is a service animal and a necessity for its owner. Therefore, the pet fee and pet security deposit do not apply to service animals. 

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

People often forget that although a service animal is an animal, it’s much more than that. The service animal helps fulfill a specific task that an individual with a disability needs for safety or for daily life. A service animal is a critical medical tool to overcome a disability. 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 disadvantages of their disability.

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

3. Who Pays for Damages? 

Does this mean that a person with a disability would never need to pay for damages incurred by their service animal?

Of course, they do. No matter how well-trained a service animal is, they’re still animals. Accidents happen. If the rental property sustains damages from a service animal, then the fees would come out of the usual security deposit or need to be paid for by the owner of the service animal. 

A pet security deposit cannot be demanded because of the service animal. Instead, any service animal damages—aside from usual wear and tear—would be treated like any others would. The only difference is that the damage would be classified as done by the owner, not charged as damages done by a pet. 

However, if a service animal owner fails to demonstrably care for their animal—fails to toilet them properly or keep them clean—then the issue can be reported as a situation of animal neglect.

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

4. What If the Landlord Does Not Allow Pets At All?

If a landlord doesn’t allow pets, can a service animal still reside in the rental unit?

Yes! Remember, service animals are more than pets. A legitimate service animal is part of an individual’s treatment and care, they are considered a medical tool to assist in a person’s disability. By law service animals are allowed in residences and most anywhere their handler wants to take them. According to the Animal Legal and Historical Center, landlords may not ask for medical records, a doctor’s note, or prohibit an animal due to species or breed.

Be a Good Service Animal Owner

Each service animal owner is a representative of other owners, so it’s essential to approach disagreements responsibly and respectfully. Prepare yourself beforehand. Gather your documentation and have your questions and answers ready before seeking rental housing or engaging in disputes. 

Most landlords will be aware of service animal laws and readily accommodate them. For others, they may only see animals as pets. These landlords may benefit from a referral to Federal Fair Housing and Americans with Disabilities Act laws. Service animals are much more than pets—they’re a vital intervention for a disability. 

Completing your Service Dog Registration and ordering your Service Dog Certification and Service Dog ID card can help you travel, live, and fly with ease.Read more →

Service Dogs and Their Rights

Service dogs, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, have numerous rights. The ADA protects the rights of those with disabilities from discrimination, and give service animals the right to perform their duties so those with disabilities can participate in everyday life. Service animals, such as dogs and miniature horses, are individually trained to perform specific tasks related to the person’s disability. The general rules about how service dogs can interact with the world around them are quite specific.

When it comes to landlords and tenancy, some landlords will have a “no pets” policy on their premises.  This, if not handled, can potentially cause problems for those who have pets. However, if your animal if a service animal, you do not have to worry about any of the legal repercussions of your service animal, as they and you are protected under the ADA. If you are not ready to train or buy a service dog you may still benefit from an emotional support animal or ESA.

Need an ESA Letter? Read how to get one online here.

How Do I Prove I Have A Service Animal?

The beauty of having a service animal is that you don’t need to prove anything to be given access. The ADA does not require service animals to have vests, leashes, or gear that identifies them as being a service animal, nor does the ADA handle any of the specifications involving training and certifying service animals. Training and qualifying service animals fall under any organization that trains service animals for those with disabilities. As long as you have your documentation on you, knowing that you are disabled and have a service animal gives you the benefit of protection under the ADA. So, what happens when someone does doubt your disability or service dog? Here’s where the ADA jumps in once more.

How The ADA Benefits You:

The ADA specifically limits the power of those who run goods and services operations in favor of protecting the rights of the disabled. A landlord, a business owner, or a covered entity employee are only allowed to ask two questions in regards to a service animal:

1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? 2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

With these two questions specially lined up, staff are not allowed to request documentation for the dog, ask it to demonstrate its tasks or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability. For instance, if you’re heading into a hotel that doesn’t allow pets to accommodate the rooms, as long as you know, by documentation and medical records that you are a disabled person and have a trained service dog, then that means that you and your pet will be allowed to occupy that premise. With very few exceptions to this rule, the ADA gives you and your service animal access to public spaces.

How Does the ADA Apply to Housing?

Housing falls under the Fair Housing Act, an act that explains the housing obligations of providers in relation to their residents. The FHA follows the rules and regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which in turn provides specific instructions for housing providers in their cases for accommodating those with disabilities.

Because landlords are not allowed to ask about the documentation for the animal, ask for a demonstration for the dog’s abilities, and inquire about the disabled person’s disabilities, then that means that the landlord has to accommodate for the new tenant and their service animal. By doing so, they must permit the disabled person to live within the housing residency through a modification or exception to their “no pets” policy. Other entities that are also subjected to the ADA and FHA acts are public housing agencies, rental offices, shelters, residential homes, multi-family housing, dorm rooms at universities and colleges, and assisted living facilities.

So, What Animals Need A Letter?

Emotional support animals are the type of assistance animals that would need a letter to be approved for housing. This is because ESA’s are not protected under the American’s with Disabilities Act. However, for those with emotional support animals, they can request a letter from their mental health professional for accommodations, as those letters provide one of the main leeways for access to housing with a “no pets” policy.