What property managers need to know about assistance animals

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A black Labrador retriever in a red leash stands at his owner's side on a paved walking path in a park.

08/24/2015 | Author: Editorial Staff

Even if you enforce a no-pets policy for the properties you manage, some tenants may still be legally able to keep animals under fair-housing laws. Here’s information from the August 19 Property Management webinar, “Fair Housing Issues,” that you may not know about assistance animals. 

What is an assistance animal?
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. 

What kind of training must an assistance animal have?
None is required by the Fair Housing Act. 

Can a property owner require proof that the tenant needs an assistance animal?
Yes. Once a request for a reasonable accommodation is made, if the tenant’s disability or the need for the accommodation is not readily apparent or known, the Fair Housing Act allows a property owner to request reliable documentation of a disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal. This documentation may be from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional.   

Can the property owner require an additional fee for allowing an assistance animal?
No. However, the tenant would still be legally responsible for any damage caused by the animal. 

Watch a recording of the webinar and download the slides from the Property Management page on texasrealestate.com

Categories: Property Management, Legal, Landlords
Tags: legal, webinar, property management, leasing, landlord, property manager, renters, fair housing, assistance animals


Bettina on 01/29/2016

I ran into this a few years ago.  I leased a condo with a very strict no tenant pet policy to a gentleman that was blind with a seeing eye dog.  He provided me with proper documentation that I provided to the HOA.  I did have him sign a pet agreement, because there was a dog living there, but did not charge a pet deposit.

Irene Pence on 08/30/2015

As the post states (“Even if you enforce a no-pets policy for the properties you manage, some tenants may still be legally able to keep animals under fair-housing laws. “) it specifically applies to housing where a no-pets policy is imposed.  Bylaws and rules established by Owners, Managers and HOAs do not supercede and cannot circumvent the Federal Fair Housing regulations governing the protection of disabled persons, a “protected class” or the right to own pets in housing offered for sale or rental to the general public.  As a Realtor, I would make sure that the condominium association confirm, in writing, that they do NOT attempt to impose this pet restriction to disabled individuals who are protected under the law before you advise a Buyer to purchase such property.

Gayle Rosenthal on 08/27/2015

How does this apply to condominiums whose bylaws and rules do not allow pets ?
Owners are told before they purchase that it is a no-pets property.  Must an owner
rent to a person with an assistance animal when the rules say “no-pets” ?

Irene Pence on 08/25/2015

This is one slippery and dangerous slope!  So be sure you are familiar with both the Fair Housing and ADA regulations regarding assistance animals.  It is my experience, over 30 years of it, that you may not charge a pet deposit for an assistance animal and may not be able to impose a Pet Agreement even if your property accepts pets generally.  You may also be prohibited from imposing a size or breed restriction for assistance animals serving the needs of a disabled person.  Even if a pet policy (reasonable rules and regulations) can be imposed, you cannot restrict assistance pet access to certain public areas and facilities that are otherwise off limits to pets.  And, animals claimed as “companion animals” for persons who are not physically disabled, or “perceived” to be disabled, also fall under these protections.  Claims and requests for companion animals can, and are, frequently abused, but nevertheless do have protections under the act.  So, review the regulations carefully before denying such accommodations.  Many are the property managers and owners of elderly and pet-free housing that grieve over these regulations, but they are lawful and the penalties for violating them can be severe.

Linda Blackmon on 08/24/2015

Do I understand this correctly, an assistance animal is NOT subject to a pet agreement or deposit?

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The material provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be considered as legal advice for your particular matter. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Applicability of the legal principles discussed in this material may differ substantially in individual situations.

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