Assistance Animals under Fair Housing Act

9 Replies

Hi Bigger Pockets.  I have a question regarding assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act.  We are advertising our rental property and just received an inquiry from someone with a service animal.  Our policy is no pets, are we required under the Fair Housing Act to rent to him?  I don't have much more information than that, he got frustrated and hung up after we said no pets.

Thanks

Colleen

I don't know he law from the rental side but from the disability act which grants medical animals, the animals are considered medical equipment and you can't refuse them.

That being said I get really pissed about how much the law gets abused by those who really don't have a real need. Also professional medical dogs are extremely well behaved and won't be something you need to worry about. The fakes on the other hand are the luck of the draw.

I would ask for documentation that it is an officially trained and certified medical dog. Not just some dog that they supposedly need for emotional support, and have never discussed it with a doctor. If it is truly a service animal, there is documentation

It is my understanding that you can’t reject someone because of a service animal. That is considered discrimination. You also can’t charge a per deposit since it is not considered a pet. But you can require documentation to prove that it is a service animal.

You can also select the best applicant out of all of your applicants so you are not forced to rent to someone just because they are disabled and have a service animal. Perhaps another tenant will have a better rental history, credit score, income, etc.

As @Amy Beth says you do not have to rent to someone because they have a service animal. Screen them and reject their application if they do not qualify or IF/WHEN you find a more qualified applicant.

There is always a reason to reject a applicant and always better applicants around the corner. Be carful, never give any applicant a reason for rejecting and you should be fine..

Contact your local HUD office or an attorney for guidance. You should establish policies that discourage fraudulent claims, of which there are many, and ensure you are only accepting truly disabled people and not someone abusing the law to sneak in their pet.

If you have an established, written policy, you can simply respond by emailing them a copy. This will discourage most from ever applying.

Contact your local housing authority to get clarification, as you could already of run into a legal situation by even calling a service animal a pet. In Wisconsin, a service animal is not considered a pet and is protected as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability...these are trained and certified animals and completely separate from the nearly unregulated "emotional support" animals. As a result, rentals that do not accept pets in Wisconsin still need to accept service animals and technically should not consider the service animal when making a determination on the application (essentially, it would legally be the same as say, denying someone because they use a walker or have an oxygen tank). You can however, require documentation of proof that the animal is a trained service animal. 

Emotional Support animals (At least in Wisconsin as far as I'm aware), can be considered pets and denied per your current pet policy. 

In both cases, you can still include clauses that essentially say if the animal causes issues on or with the property or with other tenants, that it can result in termination of the lease. 

A legit assistance animal is not a pet, it is an assistive  like a wheelchair in the eyes of Fair housing, Each state does have the right to limited regulation in this area, in WI we can now require documentation form a WI licensed professional, where previously an online Quack could sign off, there are also situations where you can deny, if the animal could cause a problem or pose a health risk for other tenants. be careful on this one and know the law. seek advice from a licensed professional. 

Originally posted by @Casandra M.:

Contact your local housing authority to get clarification, as you could already of run into a legal situation by even calling a service animal a pet. In Wisconsin, a service animal is not considered a pet and is protected as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability...these are trained and certified animals and completely separate from the nearly unregulated "emotional support" animals. As a result, rentals that do not accept pets in Wisconsin still need to accept service animals and technically should not consider the service animal when making a determination on the application (essentially, it would legally be the same as say, denying someone because they use a walker or have an oxygen tank). You can however, require documentation of proof that the animal is a trained service animal. 

Emotional Support animals (At least in Wisconsin as far as I'm aware), can be considered pets and denied per your current pet policy. 

In both cases, you can still include clauses that essentially say if the animal causes issues on or with the property or with other tenants, that it can result in termination of the lease. 

 Update for anyone that read my posting: As of April this year, Wisconsin does recognize emotional support animals that are protected against discrimination and cannot be denied from a premises, as long as the tenant is able to provide documentation from a health professional that the animal is needed in support of a disability. 

http://www.tenantresourcecenter.org/pets_and_service_animals