Posts Tagged ‘fair housing act’

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.

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.