Landlords, Pet Policies and Service Animals

Service animals are animals that are trained to specifically assist people with a disability in order to improve the quality of their life. Even though California state law permits landlords to implement a ‘No Pets Policy’, service animal are not considered to be a pet and are thus exempt from any Pet Policy rules that a landlord has implemented when a possible tenant is interested in renting one of their rental units.

If someone with a service animal is interested in applying for a rental that has a no pets policy, it’s important to understand that while a landlord is able to ask for proof that your animal is indeed considered to be a service animal and not a pet (such as ‘Is the animal needed due to a disability?’) know that they are not allowed to ask to see certification and/or a special identification card nor specific questions about the person’s specific disability.

Service Animals and Rentals
The issue of allowing pets in a rental has been one of debate with many landlords. On one hand, refusing to rent to people that have animals may limit the number of applicants. On the other hand, renting to animal owners can create issues, such as barking and/or property damage, that the landlord would rather avoid.

Pet Deposits. Although a tenant with a service animal is not required to put down a pet deposit, they are responsible for any and all damages the service animal may cause while living in the rental unit.

Protection Under the Law
People who have a service animal are protected from discrimination under federal, state, and local laws. Although both state and local laws may slightly differ, federal laws supersedes both state and local laws.

Federal Level
Fair Housing Amendment Act. The FHAA classifies persons with a service animal as a protected group. In order to be protected under this act, the person must have a disability as outlined in the FHAA.

Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA states that any and all businesses that serve the public have to allow people with service animals to be able to access all areas that people without a disability can access.

A landlord is allowed to refuse to rent to a person that requires the assistance of a service animal if:

1. Evidence shows the service animal may be a threat to the safety of other people that cannot be corrected with reasonable accommodations.
2. Evidence the service animal may cause damage to other people’s property.
3. The service animal creates undue financial and/or administrative problems to the landlord.
4. The service animal interferes with the ability of the landlord to offer their rental services.

Bottom Line
People who have a service animal are protected under the law and thus cannot be discriminated against when it comes to renting a place to live.