Rental:No pets, No animals, Pet deposit, Pet rent, Service animal

16 Replies

Hi all,
I did a search on this forum before posting and the latest topic is from last year. Seeing as the law changes fast I thought I would post these questions. I also checked the Texas landlord tenant laws handbook and it doesn't have anything on this:

A) My rental AD says No pets, I've since changed it to No animals.
Potential tenants are asking if I accept service animals.
1) By law do I have to say yes to this question no matter what?
2) Can I request copies of all service animals paper work, certifications, and any other information they have?
2) Does anyone have a link to actual law on this?
3) If it turns out that I decide to rent under these circumstances and I'm understanding that I can't charge a pet deposit, or pet rent or change the rent rate in general before the lease even starts?
4) Is it just me or does it feel like the law doesn't give landlords in option of having no Animals on properties?

Thanks

Fair housing laws require you to accept service animals. Fair housing laws do not apply to certain landlords

https://www.nolo.com/legal-enc...

When the Fair Housing Act Applies

The FHA applies to most—but not all—types of housing. Types of housing excluded from the FHA include:

  • Owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units. The FHA generally isn't applicable when a building has two to four units, and the owner lives in one of them.
  • Single-family homes rented without a broker. The FHA doesn't apply when a single-family house is sold or rented without a broker, so long as the owner doesn't own more than three houses.
  • Religious organizations. ...
  • Private clubs. ...
  • Senior housing. ...

It's important to note that even if your property is exempt from the FHA because of one of the reasons listed above, you must still comply with the law's ban on issuing discriminatory statements, notices, or advertising (42 U.S. Code § 3603(b)).


You may wish to look up the difference between "service animal" and "Emotional support animal"(ESA). Service animals can be for a number of things (seizure, blood sugar, and of course guide dog for the blind). ESA is supposed to be for someone who, according to a health professional,  "can't function normally " without the presence of that animal. Unfortunately the ESA classification has been abused by the "doesn't want to pay for pet" and "I'm specialer than everyone else" folk. 

I'm personally not a fan of tenants who lie. 

@Luke H. I am not in Texas so not sure about specific laws in your state. But generally you can’t discriminate against service animals or tell an applicant that you do not accept them. They are also not pets so you can’t charge extra. You can charge for damages though from the service animals. You can also require documentation that the animal is a service animal.

However, you are not required to accept the applicant with a service animal if you find a more suitable applicant. Perhaps another applicant will have more income, better credit, better landlord reference, etc? So you are not stuck taking someone just because they have a service animal.

@Amy Beth , that's something I didn't know and appreciate the information. I'm also thinking of having a applicant fee for having to verify service dogs for applicants.

@Deanna Opgenort , I agree that many people just flat out lie about it.

You probably can’t even charge the applicant s verification fee for their device dog.

@Luke H.   - charging any extra fee for verifying service animals risks running afoul of anti-discrimination laws. True SERVICE animals are relatively rare, and tend to be beautifully behaved. A non-disabled owner trying to claim a service animal is an easy "no" for me -- lying is a disqualifier. Most with a true service animal are delighted to brag about their dog's special skills (seizure or low blood sugar detection, balance, etc). 

In my book, anyone who is vague ("but I have a letter/vest/tag/certificate for my dog") is someone who  just bought a bogus ESA certification online. If there were problems at previous rentals (uncompensated animal damage, unpaid rent, barking, etc) you are free to reject them. 

I would think you'd be better off not mentioning allowing animals or not, and have the question on your application "do you have any animals". Declare on the application that any questions answered untruthfully are cause for eviction or denial. Then if they put down No and show up with 3 pit bulls as ESA's you can deny/evict due to lying on the application.

At least I think you can do this, hopefully others will answer.

A) My rental AD says No pets, I've since changed it to No animals.
Potential tenants are asking if I accept service animals.
1) By law do I have to say yes to this question no matter what?
2) Can I request copies of all service animals paper work, certifications, and any other information they have?
2) Does anyone have a link to actual law on this?
3) If it turns out that I decide to rent under these circumstances and I'm understanding that I can't charge a pet deposit, or pet rent or change the rent rate in general before the lease even starts?
4) Is it just me or does it feel like the law doesn't give landlords in option of having no Animals on properties?

1) Yes you need to answer yes to this question, but more than just answering that way you actually have to obey the law.

2) Service animals do not have certifications.

2) Here is a link to HUD Guidance Memo FHEO-2013-01 on the applicability to the Fair Housing Act in regards to service animals. (I labelled this answer 2 as well to correspond with your use of two seperate 2's.)

3) Correct, you can not charge any extra fees for service animals. Service animals are to be treated no different than say a wheelchair.

4) You are correct, you do not have an option legally to deny service animals.  First time violation has a fine of $20,111 (Increased from the previous fine of $16,000) 2nd violation is $50,276, and 3rd violation is $100,554.

Id also take note in the HUD guidance memo, as most people on the site tend to get this wrong...what is referred to colloquially as an Emotional Support Animal is in fact a Service Animal as defined by the Fair Housing Act & its later amendments.  Do not confuse it with the American with Disabilities Act's definition of Service Animal, which governs public accommodations, not residential real estate which is under FHA.

Thanks everyone for the feedback and links. This will help me tremendously.
From the HUD Guidance Memo link provided by @Russell Brazil
"An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the FHAct nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified.While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals."

I think you have the right because you own the property. But guide dogs are always acceptable. And be careful of service dogs as they sometimes are the excuse of avoiding no-pets clause.

I am not in Texas, so I am not sure about the specific laws of your state. But usually you can't discriminate against service animals or tell applicants that you don't accept them. They are not pets, so you can't charge extra. You can collect damages through service animals.

I think you'd better not mention the problem of allowing animals to be carried and asking "Do you have animals" in your application. Any questions that are untruely answered in the application are the reasons for the eviction or rejection.

A reasonable accomodation is required, but Landlords are not required to accept applicants just BECAUSE they have a service animal/ ESA. Normal rules apply. If tenants didn't repair damage at their last property, didn't pick up the poop, disturbed the peace (excessive barking), they (or their dog) threatened neighbors or destroyed property they can be disqualified on THOSE grounds. Personally I'm not interested in ANY tenant who damaged their previous residence - no matter what their disability. 

No you, as the landlord, have the right to say no to pets. But you have to consider it seriously, coz no-pet clause always cause tenant losing. You can accept pets by collecting high deposits and list regulations clearly.