Disabled Rights: The
Truth About Service Animals in Rental Units
Pets can be a landlordâ€™s worst nightmare. Dogs and cats are
often noisy and dirty, and they can wreak havoc on newly finished floors. So
landlords have the right to keep animals out of their units.Â But this right is not absolute. If a disabled tenant needs the
aid of a service animal, landlords must allow the pet inside the building, even
if they have a strict no-pet policy.
Service Animals: The
The Fair Housing Act, a federal law that governs rental
activity in every state, requires landlords to offer â€œreasonable
accommodationsâ€ to disabled tenants.Â So if a landlord selects a tenant who is one of more than
10,000 Americans currently using a service animal, a few key rules apply:
1.Â Â Â Â Tenants who require the aid of an animal due to
a â€œsensory, mental, or physical condition that substantially limits a major
life activityâ€ must be allowed to
live with a service animal.
2.Â Â Â Â Â Â
Service animals do not need visible
identification or documentation, but landlords can ask for proof that the animal is necessary. A letter from any
health care professional will usually suffice.Â
Â Landlords cannot force disabled tenants to pay a
pet deposit, but the tenant is still
liable for any damage caused by the animal.
Building owners may also require that tenants keep their
animals are well-behaved, but thatâ€™s a typical landlord right that extends to
human tenants, too.
And since most service animals are highly trained, itâ€™s
fairly rare for them to cause serious problems for landlords. Other tenants,
however, are another matter.
Other Tenantsâ€™ Right
to Void Their Lease
While the Fair Housing Act limits landlordsâ€™ right to keep
service animals out of their buildings, other tenants do not face the same
restrictions.Â If a tenant moves into a building because of its no-pet
policy, and a service animal moves in next door, the tenant has a right to
challenge the validity of the lease.
Of course, objecting to a service animal wonâ€™t win anyone a
Humanitarian of the Year award, but the absence of pets can be an important
factor for many tenants, especially those who suffer from allergies.
So while landlords must allow service animals to assist
disabled tenants, they may also have to void the leases of tenants upset by
their new neighbors.Â
Rusty Payton is real estate broker and attorney with the law offices of Payton Dann. Â Contact Rusty at 312-702-1000 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org