We are talking about renting properties with tenants who have service animals. As a landlord, you need to be aware of your responsibilities and your tenant’s rights.
Service Animal Definition
The question always arises – what is a service animal? A service animal is trained to provide assistance to an individual with disabilities. For example, guide dogs and signal dogs can help people who have visual impairments.
Service Animals vs. Pets
Landlords that we deal with often don’t allow pets on their properties, but service animals are completely different. According to the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landlord is required to provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. So, if your tenant is required to have a service animal, you need to provide accommodation for that. You cannot charge any extra deposits or higher monthly rents to have a service animal in place. This is different from our pet policy. If we have tenants with pets, we usually charge an extra monthly rent or we increase the deposit to allow the pet because there are increased costs. However, with service animals we cannot do that.
Health and Safety
A landlord may deny a tenant’s request to keep a service animal if there’s a direct threat to the health and safety of others or if the animal would cause physical damage to property of others. So, if you’re in a complex and there are a lot of common areas with personal property and the service animal is causing damage to that property, you can have the service animal removed.
Discussing the Disability
Another question that often arises is whether you can ask a tenant to prove their disability. We tend to wonder if a tenant is asking for a service animal without being disabled. You can ask them about their disability, and what they need for the accommodation. You can ask for documentation as well.
If you have any questions about service animals and how they differ from pets, please contact us at MSB Property Management. We have a lot of additional information, and we’d be happy to tell you more about property management in Walnut Creek.