Can I charge deposit for a service dog?

21 Replies

I have a possible tenant that tells me they don't have to pay the pet deposit because their pit bull is a service animal and I legally cannot charge them a pet deposit. Advise please.

Is there documentation that the pit bull is a service animal?

For a true service animal, you cannot charge a pet deposit.

@Maria S. no, you cannot collect a pet deposit for a service animal (of any kind). These animals are not considered "pets". They are "tools" for the tenant to be able to live their life. Personally, I would touch base with my insurance before accepting anyone with a pit bull, whether it be a service animal or not. Also, you can request health records for the animal. Service animals should have very detailed records. 

Hope this helps!

They are correct. You cannot charge extra deposits or fees for a service animal per HUD guidelines. A HUD lawsuit could be devastating. Tread lightly. I would not try to work around it.

I could be wrong but a real service dog will have permits.  Too many people have a so called service dog but not registered. Could be a fine line to walk.  Good luck. 

The free market person using my brain says it's up to you to charge whatever you want for your product, and it's up to whoever is looking at your product to decide if they want to pay what your asking.

Disgusting that some pinheaded politicians would have a say.

That said, I have no idea. But I'd charge a deposit if that was my policy on pets and if they didn't want the apt because of that then they can pound sand

There is a difference in a service animal and a "therapy" dog.   A service animal performs a task for the person.  Fifi, in her purse, does not.   Therapy dogs are not covered by the same rules as true service dogs.

At the bottom of my ads, one of my first questions is - how many animals?  If they have too many, I may forget to anonymously e-mail them back.

I also jacked up security deposit requirements for everyone, as if they have an animal or 3.

If no animal is involved, I have the right to reduce the deposit requirement. 

Do not use the word 'pet', ever.  Not this day and age.   Animal, canine or feline are all that I reference anymore.  

This all could have been prevented by question #2 in my ad.  Now you are being dictated to.  Good luck.

First read everything on here about service animals vs emotional support animals ESA. Service animals are trained, ESA ( emotional support) are not required to be and are usually not trained. You probably cannot charge a specific animal related deposit for either but you can charge a deposit for the unit. You can decide what that deposit is but can't use the dog to increase it. If your insurance has a breed restriction you can turn him down based on that. you can require documentation providing him a form to get signed by a health professional verifying the dog is necessary and he has a disability requiring it but please do more research before you do that. If the point is you don't want the dog the form is probably a good thing to do. If you want the higher deposit just make your overall deposit higher for everyone. In my book how this came up would make a difference. A prospective tenant who started the conversation with this would not be my choice for a tenant. If it just came up as a discussion point and I allow dogs no problem. - not a lawyer though so if you want a legal answer check with your lawyer.

@Maria S. it is probably not a service animal, it is probably a emotional support animal. Tenants are learning ways to force landlords to allow dangerous breeds and avoid deposits. Calling your pet an emotional support animal only requires a letter from a doctor or therapist stating you need the animal. You really don't want a Pit Bull in your property. They can rip the entire property to pieces and there is many reported stories of them hurting or killing children. Not all Pit Bull are bad, but all have the capability. Good luck ever entering that property unless the owner is there to hold the dog back.

1. Call your insurance company to find out if Pit Bull is a covered breed and if not, deny them. Not only can your insurance drop you, but they can refuse to pay a claim resulting from the Pit Bull. Now that you know it is a Pit Bull, you will be violating your insurance by allowing it if the policy prohibits it.

2. You can only ask two questions about a service animal. Is the service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Assuming it is an emotional support animal, you can request a doctors note stating a Pit Bull is necessary for treatment.

My advice is to find some way out of this. You do not want a Pit Bull in your property. I am sure you are aware that Shawnee had a ban on Pit Bulls up until April 2106. There are good reasons cities ban them. 

If you choose to accept the animal, I hope you have a really strong solid fence in the yard. Do regular inspections for damage. Require renters liability insurance that includes the animal.

I'm German shepherd owner and dog lover.  That said I would not allow a pit bull in my rental.  As others have stated this is probably not a true sevice animal but a pet the tenant is trying to sneak in.  2 weeks ago I witnessed 2 pit bulls that escaped their front yard, go after a small dog, and try to bite the dog to death.  Lucky enough the dog owner was home and him and other neighbors worked as a group to grab the pit.  Even my dog can be aggressive -it's in their nature.  

Originally posted by Account Closed:

I'm German shepherd owner and dog lover.  That said I would not allow a pit bull in my rental.  As others have stated this is probably not a true sevice animal but a pet the tenant is trying to sneak in.  2 weeks ago I witnessed 2 pit bulls that escaped their front yard, go after a small dog, and try to bite the dog to death.  Lucky enough the dog owner was home and him and other neighbors worked as a group to grab the pit.  Even my dog can be aggressive -it's in their nature.  

At a local state park last summer a Pit Bull got loose and ran after a family walking their small dog. The Pit Bull literally shredded the dog to death in front of the family. The owner couldn't pull the dog off. Later the owner said the dog was a great dog, never had any problems. The leash just snapped and it got loose.

Earlier this year a Pit Bull mauled two kids in a minivan in Atlanta and one died. Owner said the dog was well behaved, never had any problems.

In March of this year a Pit Bull killed a three week old girl in Michigan. It was the family pet. Owner said the dog was well behaved, never had any problems.

Not a risk I am willing to take. It is not even about the potential for financial liability. I couldn't sleep at night if I knew a child was harmed by a dog I allowed on my property. 

@Maria S. .,

I'd absolutely check with your insurance company first-- ours specifically has said "no Pit bulls, or pit bull mixes" and anything that might be a mix, we require a vet statement labeling the breed.  I tried talking to insurance companies, couldn't find a single one that would rent to a landlord that has a tenant owning a pit bull (they will if it's owner occupied and you own the pit bull) , so be cautious before you have to be the bad guy and do an eviction because an error on your part to verify.    

I'd just tell them that you're currently accepting applications, and appreciate them applying!   You do *NOT* have to rent to everyone who applies,  and honestly, if they are starting to be high maintenance, and stressful, BEFORE the lease even starts-- why in the world would you want to deal with them long term?! Seems sue happy, and will be a jerk to you, I'd run!   No tenant is always better than a bad one!!!

Definitely clarify if it is a service dog or not. You CAN charge for a therapy dog, and refuse to house them. You CANNOT charge for a service animal, or an ESA (emotional support animal), and cannot refuse housing them. This is not allowed under the Fair Housing Act. You CAN require a doctor's note for ESA's, and I would do some research on online sites that 'sell' doctor's notes for a fee, because these aren't real ones. A lot of people are buying these notes online and passing them off, without even truly seeing a doctor. But yes, ESA's don't need to be trained for any specific purpose. However, if they cause disruption (such as receiving complaints from neighbors for their barking etc), regardless of the doctor's note, that can be grounds to get rid of them once they're already there. 

But I agree, tread lightly if they say it is a service animal. Even if your insurance doesn't allow 'dangerous' breeds, there may be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit. I don't even believe you can ask what service the dog is used for, but that, unfortunately, is out of my expertise. Perhaps you can ask what service they used to train the dog, and ask for a copy of the graduation certificate?

A side note for all of the people discussing these dangerous dogs - I worked at a dog training/daycare facility for some time, and some of the nicest dogs are pit bull breeds. They are regarded as especially people-friendly, and only in some cases are they dog-aggressive. These cases just happened to get highlighted, like all bad news. For every horrible case you hear of, there are hundreds of peaceful, friendly pits out there that aren't getting recognition. If the concern lies in the breed, do a temperament test/dog 'interview' beforehand. Watching how the person handles the dog would be the biggest indicator of how well they will do on your property, in my opinion. 

Follow up on the service dog thing: After some digging, I believe you can only ask two questions if it's a service animal. 

The first is: if it is a service animal required because of a disability and the second is: what tasks the animal performs. 

You can't ask for documentation or certification, because from what I've found is that there's not a state or national certification available for service animals. Therefore, you aren't allowed to ask  if it's licensed, certified or whether the animal has papers/identification.

You can still ask for a doctor's note if it's an ESA, and the note should specify that the person has a disability (it does not need to disclose what the disability is), and that the doctor has prescribed the said animal to support the tenant emotionally. Like I said before, just beware of all of the internet scams where people can buy notes for upwards of 75 dollars just to pass them off.

Hope the info helps!

I realize this is an old post. I'm answering in case anyone Google's and runs into it.

A) I'm a landlord. 4 properties.

B) I use a service dog.

C) My service dog, is a Staffordshire Terrier. That breed falls under the pitbull umbrella.

D) Put bull IS NOT a breed. It's an umbrella terms for ALL canines with a mixed heritage that includes bulldog.

I'm rather uniquely qualified to answer this so I will start with the actual question.

No. You can't charge a deposit for service animals. They fall under the same category as medical equipment. ESA, emotional service animals, are, however,  slightly different from Service Animals. ESA provide emotional, mental health support. They don't provide actual physical support and aren't as protected as service animals. That's not to say you can charge additional or higher deposits, or any deposits at all, for ESA.  In addition, if the tenant has a physician sign off on an animal being an ESA that ESA is required to be allowed to reside with the owner, even if the residence is typically pet free. 

Contrary to what is being stored here-- service animals DON'T require documentation. ESA DO. There is NO federal or state agency that passes out a bonafide service animal tag, badge, vest and so on. Many fake service animals have all those things. The internet abounds with sites where you can buy such things. That being said? Some actual service dog HANDLERS, because we are that-- handlers-- have tired of the demand for documentation and just started buying that garbage. Those demands come from the unwitting and uneducated who have come to expect that Service Animals must have those non-existent bonafides. Mostly because they've been fooled by them before.

Don't ask for documentation of the animals. At least, don't ask for tags or that vest because there's no law that states the service animals must possess them. DON'T ask for training certificates, training spectrum, years of service. Keep in mind it's perfectly legal, and not uncommon, for dogs to be trained by their handler rather than professional handlers. That's legal and it doesn't mean that the animal is poorly trained. However, dogs trained at facilities and matched to the handler are usually superior in ability. It's not legal to ask for documentation nor for training records.

You have every right to ask 2 things: is the animal required for a disability? & What work or task does the animal perform?

Keep in mind answers to the last question may be vague whether or not the animal is a real or fake animal. Yes, that frustrates you. It also frustrates us, those who use genuine service animals. The thing is, it's illegal to ask what the disability is. If I say, my dog protects me during a health crisis, that's a legit answer. Anything further compromises my right to privacy.

You can, as a landlord, take legal steps to eject an animal who behaves in an aggressive or unattended manner, service dog or no. But you have to be clear in your documentation. Many a fake dog has been busted for behaving badly. That's on the owners, by the way, not the dog. Service Animals go everywhere with their handlers. Period. ESA? Not always the case. So if you have a service animal, SERVICE, not ESA, that stays home alone all day while the owner is not home or who spends all day/ night outside without attendance by their handler you may well have a fake service animal on your property.

Pit bulls. The horrific truth is that they are overbred, abused, forced into fighting, starved, beaten, brutally murdered,  disposed of via dumping, and euthanized by the hundreds of thousands every year.

Mine is a former bait dog. Rescued at 8 weeks. He had 64 bites, two broken legs, no baby teeth left, and a concussion. What he does for me? He literally stands over me to prevent people from placing objects in my mouth during a medical crisis. That could kill me, and has happened as there is an old wives tale about why people should.( I'm sure you can guess my disability.) He also positions himself below my neck and head to prevent head injury during medical crisis. He is trained to fetch medication. He's trained to save my life. Stop all the hate. If you don't want vicious animals, work to stop illegal dog fighting.🤩

All that being said, if the dog is a service animal the breed becomes secondary. Your insurance may in fact cover it even if it IS a pit bull and a handler will know this, and request you speak to the insurance company. Or the name of it.