The Federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act require landlords to provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, and companion animals do qualify. Remember, to qualify for a companion animal, tenants must have a qualifying disability and be able to demonstrate a nexus.
Here are a few key points for landlords to know:
- Companion animals must follow the same reasonable rules that apply to pets as far as waste, leash restrictions damage, noise and safety.
- Landlords may have some say in setting limits on size, species, breed and number of companion animals and several tenant companion animal requests have been considered unreasonable and upheld by the courts, while others have not. For example, the court may find a single cat as a companion animal is reasonable, whereas five cats might easily be considered unreasonable.
- Landlords cannot charge pet deposits or pet fees because the law doesn’t consider companion animals as pets.
- Landlords can request a written statement from a health care provider confirming the tenant’s disability and the nexus of a companion animal and confirmation that its presence will ease the disability.
- Landlords can require health and wellness documentation for the companion animal, such as immunization/vaccination records and so forth.
- Landlords can still write warnings, deliver official notices or even evict the tenant and companion animal for things like excessive noise, property damage, behavior problems or whenever the companion animal might threaten the safety of other tenants.
- Landlords can refuse to allow certain companion animals if the animal will present undue hardship or expense for the landlord’s business. An example of this is when a landlord’s insurance company will raise rates or drop coverage for certain dog breeds to live on the property that are considered too aggressive, like pit bulls.
Many of the court cases involving landlords, tenants and animals center on the laws, rules and regulations about companion animals, not service animals. To outsiders, it is difficult to distinguish between a companion animals and a pet. It’s important that you work closely with your attorney when it comes to tenant requests for companion animals to ensure you are following federal, state and municipal laws regarding reasonable accommodations.