Service Animals

6 Replies

Question - can we still require a non refundable deposit for service animals in Washington State? Potential tenant is asking if it is required since it is a service animals - oh and there are TWO!

No extra rent or pet deposit can be charged. I believe this is per HUD or the Fair Housing Act. Now you can require them to provide proof they are a service animal. I believe this comes with the purchase of these types of animals. Now if its a comfort animal, they fall under the same category but has no paperwork other than vet records but same guidelines. Find a different way to disqualify them otherwise you can get sued for discrimination. Verify with your local landlord - tenant codes as well.

Not that I know of.  I jacked up the deposit requirement on all my units in case of this.  I can always reduce if no animals are involved.  

I've also removed the word pet from all of my advertising, leases and agreements.  Now I only use 'animal'.  Good luck with this @Justin Peila

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@Justin Peila service animal is different than an emotional support animal. Service animals are governed by ADA whereas emotional support animals are governed by Fair Housing. 

Service animal is trained to perform a specific duty for a handicap person such as a seeing eye dog and they are certified. Emotional support animals are not trained are are not certified, although people buy fake certificates on the internet so be aware!

For emotional service animals you can and should require a letter from their doctor stating these two specific animals are required for treatment of your applicant. Make sure the letter states the specific breed and quantity of dogs required for treatment. Also make sure the letter comes directly from the doctor. Don't accept a letter that your applicant brings to you. Ask for the fax number or e-mail of the health care provider and contact them yourself, asking them to send the letter directly to you.

There are many people who use emotional support animals as an excuse to get pets into a property without proper doctor certifications. 

Service animals under ADA don't bother me one bit because they are legitimately treating a person with a handicap, but the emotional support animals are not controlled sufficiently to protect a landlord, so lookout for yourself.

In either case, they are animals not pets and you cannot charge pet rent or pet deposit. If the animal does damage, you can still take money from their security deposit. Also feel free to implement regular inspections to make sure the pets are not destroying your property. They have a right to the animals, but not a right to damage your property!

I agree with what  @Joe Splitrock said.  Sorry I had some sources wrong.  One thing to note; once a tenant sues you for handicap violations (ex. discrimination of service animals) the ADA will take over the lawsuit and legal fees. 

Originally posted by @Jim Adrian :

I agree with what  @Joe Splitrock said.  Sorry I had some sources wrong.  One thing to note; once a tenant sues you for handicap violations (ex. discrimination of service animals) the ADA will take over the lawsuit and legal fees. 

Good point and the point is that it is best to not mess with any service animal request. The emotional support animals on the other hand seem to have less enforcement through HUD.

It is usually just simpler to avoid the situation by finding better qualified applicants. If they are you best applicant you are possibly stuck but if they are not the best qualified you can choose another applicant with out discriminating.

With or without service animals they must still be the best qualified to be selected, there is no law forcing a landlord to take a less qualified applicant simply because they have a service animal. 

There is generally very little to be concerned about the HUD regs when a landlord has clear screening standards.

You should be able to find a better applicant than someone with two animals.