Service dogs, as the best partner for people with disabilities, act as a personal guard to protect their owner from dangers, attacks, and accidents all the time. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are allowed to accompany the owner to almost any location, including places where pets are prohibited. However, many owners are not aware of the required procedure when applying for a “No Pets” apartment. Landlords or property managers may want to enforce pet policies and request proof or documentation of your service dog. Is that legal? Do they have the right to inquire about your disabilities? Can they evict you from the apartment? The answers to these questions can be found in this post.
In this article
The housing rights of service dogs
The Fair Housing Laws require landlords or property owners to provide reasonable accommodation for tenants who have physical or mental disabilities. This also includes assistance animals that help to improve the health of their owners.
Since service dogs are not considered household “pets”, they are not subject to the general pet policies. Therefore, if a tenant applies to live with a service animal for their disabilities, landlords cannot refuse this request or charge pet fees based on their own pet rules. Besides service dogs, landlords must also permit emotional support animals to live with their owners in comfortable accommodation, provided the animals do not pose a threat to others on the property.
Talk with landlords: things you need to know
When you have found an ideal home and intend to talk with the landlord, there are two ways to talk about your service partner:
One is to stay calm and explain which tasks your service dog can perform for you, which is suitable for individuals with invisible disabilities.
If your landlord still hesitates to accept your application, the second method may greatly increase the likelihood by providing certain documentation (e.g. service dog certificate, service dog training certificate and letter from professionals) or wearing service dog “outfits” (e.g. vest, ID tag, and bandana.)
Note the next five points when talking with your landlord:
1. Documents (Service dog papers)
You are not required to disclose your disability and to submit diagnostic documents. Landlords only need to know that you are disabled and your service animal can benefit your health and safety. However, they can ask for proof that your service dog has been certified by a medical professional. The usual document is a letter from doctors stating that your disability may benefit from your service dog. In addition, landlords are also permitted to ask for some sort of proof that your service dog is specially trained for your disability, which can reassure other residents in the same building. It is recommended to include a photo and identification information of your pup in an ID card so that they can be compared with the information in the document.
However, the landlord cannot continue to inquire about the details of your disability. But this could happen if your disability is not visible and obvious.
2. Pet rent or deposit for a service dog
As mentioned above, a service dog is not considered a pet. Therefore, the landlords must waive any monthly pet rent, security deposit and other fees related to their pet policies.
3. Other fees
You might not be exempt from paying any compensation for damage caused by the deterioration of furniture and the damage to public equipment. It is recommended that you train your service dog as soon as possible and correct any unwanted behaviors, as the performance of a service dog is representative of the entire service dog team. However, sometimes we can not avoid certain accidental damages such as the remains of vomiting, signs of teething and other damages that the owner may pay for.
4. Weight and breed restriction
The ADA does not limit the size, weight and breed of service dogs residing in a property. This means that the corresponding items in the pet rules of the landlord do not apply to your canine helper. Whether a dog lives happily and comfortably are related to their breeds and the space of activities.
Landlords can request that they be presented with the current vaccinations of your service dog. Although this measure is not included in the ADA, it is a reasonable request for the safety of other residents.
Many tenants are still not sure whether their service dog is discriminated against. You may experience the following situations when applying for accommodation:
• The landlord requests you to fill out his/her form about your state of health, local licensing or recent vaccinations.
• They may also evict the tenant who picks up a service dog after moving into the apartment.
In fact, similar cases have violated the law. Tenants are not required to submit any form to the landlord, but they can write a letter to the landlord to request adequate accommodation. If he still rejects your application, inform him of past cases where landlords have had to pay a specific penalty for discrimination. You could also pursue the matter by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.