Pet Fee

17 Replies

I am sure it happens, though I have not personally experienced this...yet.

I would ask for a document from a healthcare provider, which is what I believe is provided to service animals.

Service animals come with official paperwork and the tenant should have no problem providing you a copy of this. I would require the paperwork and vet records. A "comfort animal" is not a service animal and would fall under the pet requirements. I "think" you can still charge a pet deposit and monthly fee for a service animal but you can not reject the animal and tenant due to this. At a minimum I would charge the standard pet deposit. I would look at the Fair Housing Act and your local HUD Dept on this. You could get into a sticky situation.

Originally posted by @Percy N. :

I am sure it happens, though I have not personally experienced this...yet.

I would ask for a document from a healthcare provider, which is what I believe is provided to service animals.

 Thanks Percy,  That is what i will do.  

I've never had experience with this type of thing, but if I was in that situation I would be careful as there definitely could be a law that protects against this sort of thing. I would verify it's a service animal. I imagine they are very well trained dogs and shouldn't cause as much damage as a "regular" pet.

Originally posted by @Jim Adrian :

Service animals come with official paperwork and the tenant should have no problem providing you a copy of this. I would require the paperwork and vet records. A "comfort animal" is not a service animal and would fall under the pet requirements. I "think" you can still charge a pet deposit and monthly fee for a service animal but you can not reject the animal and tenant due to this. At a minimum I would charge the standard pet deposit. I would look at the Fair Housing Act and your local HUD Dept on this. You could get into a sticky situation.T

Thanks Jim,  I am going to ask for supporting paper work and if they have it.  I will treat the animal like medical equipment.  If not then, then its a pet.  Thanks for the input.  

Yes, this can be very messy and should always be documented. A service animal is always documented because as noted above they are specifically trained for people with disabilities. A "comfort" or "emotional support animal" is a whole different thing. Here's a BP post I found that might help you, @Terry Jacobsenhttps://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/2015/03/1...

I read about a case where a tenant seemed to be fine with paying a larger deposit for a pet. She found out later that she could call it a comfort animal for her depression, and she sued the landlord without ever even having asked for a waiver of the deposit because of it. The landlord was raked over the coals and then had to settle the case on top of it just to stop spending money defending the case. Yikes.

Originally posted by @Jim Adrian :

Service animals come with official paperwork and the tenant should have no problem providing you a copy of this. I would require the paperwork and vet records. A "comfort animal" is not a service animal and would fall under the pet requirements. I "think" you can still charge a pet deposit and monthly fee for a service animal but you can not reject the animal and tenant due to this. At a minimum I would charge the standard pet deposit. I would look at the Fair Housing Act and your local HUD Dept on this. You could get into a sticky situation.

This is not the case. An emotional support animal (ESA) is NOT a pet, and also does not have to be specially trained. In the case of an obvious need, such as a seeing eye dog for an obviously blind person, you are not allowed to ask for documentation. In the case of a not-so-obvious need, such as Post Traumatic Stress, you are allowed to ask for proof of prescription. If a physician prescribed the ESA, this will be easy to get. You may NOT ask for the nature of the illness or need. You can only ask for proof that it was prescribed by a physician.

As a medical device (similar to a wheelchair) you cannot require extra pet deposit or extra pet rent. If the prescribed ESA does damage to your property, you may take the cost of repairs out of the security deposit.

Be very careful when denying based on pets that are called support animals. 

The rules/regulations seem to be constantly changing. The ADA does not require a dog to to be "REGISTERED" nor can a local municipality require it. So asking for paperwork doesn't mean a dog would be determined to be a service dog.

The dog must be UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE PROVIDER at all times. That is the key. If they go out without the dog, it isn't a service dog. Plain and simple. IT MUST BE UNDER CONTROL OF THE OWNER AT ALL TIMES!

You can ask a person if they aren't obviously disabled, for documentation of both the disability and the need for a service animal, but there is no 'registration' of the animal themselves that is official.

Here is a link to the ADA on service animals: http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

Here is one for the Fair Housing Act: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?i...

I had this issue, that I forgot to mention. I had a PIA tenant that had a Pit Bull that he claimed was a service animal. The dog was REMOVED because the ADA still requires the owner to register and tag the dog as any other animal would be registered. I didn't feel bad, because it was obvious they weren't being honest.

@Mindy Jensen is correct. Be careful of some misinformation you are otherwise being given. I recently went through fair housing training on this subject. A comfort or emotional support animal is not a pet. You cannot charge pet rent or extra pet deposit. An ESA is not a service animal and is not governed under ADA. An ESA does not have to go through training such as a service animal would. An ESA could be any breed, including dangerous breeds such as Pit Bull. There is court precedence that you cannot deny the breed, even if your community has a ban on it (scary). This applies to apartments with no pets policy and even condos with no pets covenants. It could also be other animals such as a cat, snake or a pig for that matter. You cannot ask why they need the animal, but you can ask for a letter from a qualified mental health care professional stating they need that specific animal. 

There are some ways to protect yourself. I would request the provider to send the letter directly to you. I would make sure it is a doctor or psychologist who is local to the area. I would ask that they state the specific type of animal and breed in the letter. If a physiologist thinks they need a Pit Bull, then he/she should be willing to sign their name saying it is necessary. The obvious reason to get the letter directly from the provider is to avoid a situation where your tenant creates their own letter. It also prevents them from going on the internet and paying $25 for a certificate or letter. If it is legitimate, you are required by fair housing to accept the animal without deposit and regardless of your policy. 

As @Don Konipol pointed out, if the owner doesn't meet your criteria, you are not required to accept them. 

There is 2 different kind of category one is the service animal that they provide life saving chores from them like seen eye dog, detect seizure, assisting with MS and ECT..


The other kind is emotional support that they comfort them with anxiety and other emotional issues that someone might have and that could any kind of animal like dog, cat, snake, pig or whatever and they need that mostly when they fly or do thing that make them uncomfortable which living in the house shouldn't be one of them...

As a landlord you are allowed to ask for documentation and a kind of service that animal provide.
Most people or owner if they are not legit don't know the difference between service animal or emotional support so you need to ask them which one is it?

Ask for their document and you are allowed as a landlord. Make sure when you get that paper you verify the legitimacy of that paper since THEY COULD BE BOUGHT ONLINE for $60 or so... Those documents are good only for one year so every year they have to provide you with a renewed one.

If is a emotional support make sure call the Dr that signed that paper to verify they exist and verify their lic with the state make sure they are still active and working.

But for service animal you can ask what kind of service they provide and what are the signs and how they provide that service and of course you need to verify their doc same with the state cuz their paper is different.

You can always ck https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet for any question you might have.

I hope this helped....

Originally posted by @Terry Jacobsen :

Has anyone had a tenant call there pet a service animal and try to get around the pet fee?   

Hello Terry,

This is a great question! Yes, there is such a thing as a service animal. However, there will be documentation of it, either by a doctor or a license of some sort. A person cannot simply say it is a service animal because they think it is. That is an official title given to animals that actually do provide a service to the owner. 

Also, if the animal is in fact a service animal, then you cannot charge a pet fee. If you charged a fee, that would be discrimination. I believe all state laws are the same, but I could be wrong. That would be like charging someone a wheelchair fee. You simply cannot do that.

There has been many instances of pet owners claiming their animals are service animals, but without proper documentation, then it is just a pet.

Make sure you get all of the documents on file so you know. I hope this helped! I know it can be a tricky situation.

Originally posted by @Tom Ott :
Originally posted by @Terry Jacobsen:

Has anyone had a tenant call there pet a service animal and try to get around the pet fee?   

Hello Terry,

This is a great question! Yes, there is such a thing as a service animal. However, there will be documentation of it, either by a doctor or a license of some sort. A person cannot simply say it is a service animal because they think it is. That is an official title given to animals that actually do provide a service to the owner. 

Also, if the animal is in fact a service animal, then you cannot charge a pet fee. If you charged a fee, that would be discrimination. I believe all state laws are the same, but I could be wrong. That would be like charging someone a wheelchair fee. You simply cannot do that.

There has been many instances of pet owners claiming their animals are service animals, but without proper documentation, then it is just a pet.

Make sure you get all of the documents on file so you know. I hope this helped! I know it can be a tricky situation.

Thanks for the help Tom.  Have a great 2016  Terry J

Originally posted by @Terry Jacobsen :
Originally posted by @Tom Ott:
Originally posted by @Terry Jacobsen:

Has anyone had a tenant call there pet a service animal and try to get around the pet fee?   

Hello Terry,

This is a great question! Yes, there is such a thing as a service animal. However, there will be documentation of it, either by a doctor or a license of some sort. A person cannot simply say it is a service animal because they think it is. That is an official title given to animals that actually do provide a service to the owner. 

Also, if the animal is in fact a service animal, then you cannot charge a pet fee. If you charged a fee, that would be discrimination. I believe all state laws are the same, but I could be wrong. That would be like charging someone a wheelchair fee. You simply cannot do that.

There has been many instances of pet owners claiming their animals are service animals, but without proper documentation, then it is just a pet.

Make sure you get all of the documents on file so you know. I hope this helped! I know it can be a tricky situation.

Thanks for the help Tom.  Have a great 2016  Terry J

Thanks! Same to you! Best of luck in the REI world!