Posts Tagged ‘landlords’

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. 

When seeking rented accommodation, it is not uncommon to find that landlords or housing providers have imposed a ‘no pets’ policy as part of their agreement. This is usually due to many factors such as noise, potential damage to their property, or simply due to insurance restrictions. While the majority of renters have to abide by this policy, there are some situations where individuals are allowed to keep animals in accommodation where a ‘no pet’ policy is imposed.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that disabled persons may live in accommodation with their service animals, even where pets are not usually allowed. This is because service animals are extremely well behaved due to their extensive training, and are not considered as pets. As emotional support animals are prescribed to individuals as a therapeutic treatment for their psychological disorders, some landlords will allow them to live with their owners despite a ‘no pet’ policy, but they are not always obliged to, and will not always allow this. So what can you do if your landlord does not accept your emotional support animal?

Emotional Support Animals Do Not Have the Same Rights as Service Animals

Animals have long been used to medically assist humans with various needs, such as a service dog to aid a blind or visually impaired person with navigation and protection, or an emotional support animal to provide affection and companionship as part of a treatment plan for anxiety issues. These animals both provide a similar service, but are not regarded equally in the eyes of the law.

Service animals are trained specifically to assist with an individual’s disability and are recognized by the ADA. Emotional support animals, however, are not ADA approved animals and therefore are not exempt from certain restrictions such as access to public places or private establishments in the same way that service animals are.

While applying to rent private accommodation with a ‘no pets’ policy can be a relatively straightforward process for owners of service animals due to the ADA, the same process can be a little more tricky for people with emotional support animals. Not to worry though! The Fair Housing Act protects owners of emotional support animals to live with their ESA in most housing situations.

Some landlords may be okay with Emotional Support Animals, and some might not

Because landlords are not obliged to accept emotional support animals when processing your application in the same way they have to with service dogs, you may have to accept that some accommodation may be off limits to you if you do not have documentation or an ESA letter from a licensed therapist.

Whether you already have an emotional support animal and are seeking new accommodation, or already live in accommodation with a ‘no pet’ policy and have been assigned an emotional support animal, you may face a few barriers regarding your application. Please continue reading to find out how to protect yourself from uninformed landlords. 

How Can I Get an ESA Letter Online?

What to do if my Landlord says “NO” to my Emotional Support Animal?

If you provide the correct documentation from a licensed therapist and your landlord is still insistent about not allowing your ESA, you have a few options.

You can contact the HUD and file a complaint You can contact a lawyer and have them write a strongly worded letter to your landlord You can contact an ESA advocate that will point you in the right direction All hope is not lost thanks to the Fair Housing Act (FHA)

When can apartments not allow my emotional support animal? There are certain circumstances where landlords are not obliged to accept Emotional Support Animals, such as:

Buildings that have four or fewer dwellings of which the landlord is the occupant of one Single family accommodation rented or sold without a real estate broker

Thankfully, an accommodation that does not fall under these categories are not imposed by such restrictions and must consider all service animal or emotional support animal applications.

While service animals are looked upon more favorably in these circumstances, the fact that emotional support animals are technically not pets goes a long way when a landlord processes your application.

Should your landlord decide not to accept your emotional support animal, and if your accommodation doesn’t come under one of the above categories, then you should provide them with a letter from a licenced mental health professional, which, under the Fair Housing Act, should be sufficient proof of your need for an emotional support animal for your application.

If for any reason you are unable to obtain a letter from a licensed mental health professional, there are many services available to provide sufficient proof after a successful assessment. One such service is ESA Doctors who can determine your eligibility for an emotional support animal.

Although applying for an apartment is usually a straightforward process for individuals with emotional support animals, without the need to jump through hoops to be allowed to live with their animal, sometimes the process can be a little trickier than it ought to be. By providing a letter from a licensed mental health professional such as your psychologist, therapist or psychiatrist which verifies your need for an ESA, you should have little problem making a successful application under the Fair Housing Act.

See if you qualify for an emotional support animal.