Posts Tagged ‘pet fees’

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. 

No, a landlord cannot refuse access to a service dog as they are protected by the ADA. A service dog is a medical tool and not a pet.

Laws protecting Assistance Animals in No Pet Housing  

There are two types of assistance animals that have special rights regarding housing. The first is service dogs and the second is emotional support animals. If you have a mental or physical disability that requires you to have either a Service Dog or an Emotional Support Animal, you have rights under Federal Law. A few of these rights include:

1). Access to “no pets” policy housing 2). Exemption from monthly pet fees 3). Exemption from a higher pet deposit 4). Exemption from breed or weight discrimination

The ADA does not put breed or weight restrictions on Service Dogs or Emotional Support Animals. This means a landlord must allow you housing regardless of the breed, age, and weight of your assistance animal. However, there is one exception to this rule. If your service dog/animal causes damage to the property or disruption/harm to the other tenants you can be asked to leave the building.

If you feel you have been discriminated against when it comes to housing, you can file an official complaint with the HUD in your area. If you feel a service dog is right for you, continue reading.

Overview on Service Dogs

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes a number of both physical and mental conditions that could require a Service Dog. Unlike an emotional support animal (ESA), the Service Dog is specifically trained to perform tasks an individual cannot do for themselves. This could be anything from retrieving dropped items, guiding the person, to alerting to an oncoming seizure. It is important to understand the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal.

Training a Service Dog takes time and patience. This can be done by the individual requiring the dog or by a professional organization. Adopting a fully trained service dog can cost thousands of dollars. You may be interested in training your service dog yourself and seeking support from local trainers. Do not let cost prevent you from seeking support from a service dog.

Service Dogs are a tremendous aid for people in need, providing them with the freedom and independence many of us take for granted.

Overview on Service Dog Access Rights 

When you have a legitimate Service Dog, you will have the right and access to all areas where the general public is allowed. This includes retail locations, restaurants, hotels, and beaches. In addition, when flying, you and your Service Dog will be granted in cabin seating of an airplane at no extra cost to you.

However, there may be some restrictions placed on your Service’s Dog’s accessibility. These include;

Hospital ICU or other areas where special clothing is required Treatment area of an ambulance Restricted areas on a military base Zoo exhibit where the Service Animal may upset the animals of the exhibit

Overview on Registration and Vest of the Service Dog

After your Service Dog has been trained to perform the task(s) you need him to do, it’s time to have him registered. Register your service dog here – Service Dog Certification.

Once this is completed, you will then have access to a Service Dog vest. When your dog wears this special form of identification, it’s letting the public know that your canine companion is a working animal and therefore should be treated as such. This includes not interacting with the dog and making allowances for the animal to enter into all public areas. To learn more about service dog vest requirements click here.

Overview on Communication When You Have a Service Dog

There are two ways of communicating your need for a Service Dog to those that may dispel your requirement. The first is to always stay calm and don’t escalate the situation. Explain to the individual what tasks the Service Dog performs for you. This may be more necessary if your disability is not outwardly apparent.

The second line of communication is the documentation you received when you registered your Service Dog. This may be in the form of the vest, badges, and/or an official certificate of authenticity as we mentioned above.

If you are dealing with a particularly stubborn individual, read this guide on traveling with a service dog.

The Service Dog & You

Know your rights when it comes to having a Service Dog. If any of these rights have been violated, then go through the proper channels to ensure you get results. Having a Service Dog should not prevent you from living a life of freedom.

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