What can and can’t a landlord ask you for to verify your right to have a service dog live with you? The following article will answer those questions and more to help you make sure you and your service dog have no problems taking residence together in the home of your choice.
Can a Landlord Ask for Proof of a Service Dog?
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) allows people with a disability to live with a service dog and requires landlords make reasonable accommodations for that service dog. While informing a landlord of a service dog is required before you move into a home with one or bring one into your home, you do not need to provide a landlord any medical documentation for a service dog nor reveal to a landlord any information about the nature of your disability or how it impacts you. A landlord is also prohibited from requiring any proof that your dog is a service dog, including asking what tasks the dog performs for you or request a demonstration of those tasks.
Note that the rules are different, however, for emotional support animals (ESAs.) While the ADA does not cover ESAs, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) does. The FHA requires landlords to allow people with legitimate ESAs to take residence in their properties, but landlords are allowed to require more documentation before granting that permission. Specifically, if you have an emotional support dog, as distinct from a service dog, you may need to provide a letter from your psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist or other licensed mental health practitioner that you have a disability and need your dog to help relieve its symptoms. The LMHP must print this letter on official letterhead and sign and date it. Your landlord cannot contact this practitioner, but only verify his or her credentials or request you have your practitioner complete a “Reasonable Accommodation” form. For both service dogs and emotional support dogs alike, landlords can require copies of the dog’s medical records proving he or she is in good health, free of parasites and current with all necessary vaccinations.
Check out also: Can a Landlord Say NO to an Emotional Support Dog?
What Documentation Are Landlords Not Allowed to Ask For?
Landlords are prohibited from asking for most other forms of documentation, including (but not limited to):
- Proof of service dog training
- Service dog certification or verification documentation
- Medical records of you, the tenant
- Documentation detailing anything specific about your disability
Further, landlords cannot ask if you have a disability or how severe it is or anything about your treatment or medical history. A landlord cannot ask if you’ve been hospitalized for your disability, how long you’ve been undergoing treatment or even whether you’ve ever been enrolled in a drug rehabilitation program. If a landlord ever harasses you or accuses you of lying about your disability, service dog or qualifications, that could be considered discrimination that violates the ADA or Fair Housing Act.
Check out also: 9 Tips For Training Your Dog To Become A Service Dog
Can a Landlord Refuse a Service Dog Based on Breed?
In most cases, landlords are not permitted to refuse any service dog due to its breed. However, under certain conditions, allowing a dog of a particular breed may be considered unreasonable, such as if the landlord’s insurance provider would drop the landlord’s coverage based on the service dog’s breed. Breeds frequently prohibited by property insurance carriers include:
- Pit Bulls
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepherds
- St. Bernards
- Siberian Huskies
- Wolf hybrids
- Alaskan Malamutes
If a landlord has a policy prohibiting certain breeds, however, but accommodating that dog as a service dog cannot be legitimately considered unreasonable, such as for insurance purposes, then the landlord cannot prohibit that service dog due to its breed and must allow it. Describing a particular breed as “dangerous” or “too big” is not sufficient reasonable cause to refuse a service dog based on its breed.
Service Dogs in Apartments
Even though you have a right to have a service dog in your home, you are still obligated to make sure that dog behaves appropriately in that residence. Ultimately, you will be responsible for any and all actions your service dog takes on the premises. In an apartment, that means respecting the other tenants and their personal spaces and rights to live peacefully, comfortably and safely as well.
- Your dog should not bark excessively, especially during the late night and early morning.
- Your dog should not behave aggressively toward any other person or animal in the building.
- Your dog should only urinate or defecate in appropriate and indicated areas, and you must clean up after your dog anytime he or she relieves him or herself.
- You must not leave your dog alone in the apartment for any extensive length of time.
- You take full responsibility, including monetary, for any damage beyond normal wear and tear that your dog causes to the apartment, the building or personal property of others on the premises. That includes torn carpet from the dog’s digging, soiled carpet from dog vomit or waste and teeth marks on wood molding and trim.
Can a Landlord Charge Extra for a Service Dog?
No, a landlord cannot charge a fee or extra rent for your service dog, even if the landlord ordinarily charges pet fees or pet rent.
Can a Landlord Charge a Pet Deposit for a Service Dog?
Likewise, a landlord cannot require that you pay a security deposit for your service dog, even if that landlord normally requests pet deposits.
Can Landlords Not Allow Service Dogs?
In general, landlords cannot prohibit service dogs from residing with tenants on their properties. However, the Fair Housing Act governing service dog regulations does allow a few specific exceptions to this rule, identifying certain situations in which a landlord is permitted to refuse a service dog residence, namely:
- In buildings with four units or fewer in which the landlord occupies one.
- In single-family homes rented or sold without the use of a real estate broker.
- In motels and hotels that the Fair Housing Act does not consider dwellings, though the ADA considers them places of public accommodation.
- In private clubs.
Can My Landlord Evict Me for Having a Service Dog?
Your landlord cannot evict you simply for having a service dog. Your landlord can evict you, however, if you and your service dog do not abide by the laws and guidelines, such as respecting the personal space, property, health and safety of building staff and other tenants and their animals. Likewise, your landlord can evict you if one of the aforementioned exceptions arises, such as if the landlord wants to move into your unit him or herself and there are no comparable units available on the property.
Other reasons a landlord may be allowed to deny a service dog residence or evict you because of your service dog include:
- If you refuse to take appropriate responsibility for your dog
- If you are found to not be legally disabled and/or not to actually need a service dog
- If your service dog is not permitted by state or local law or is otherwise illegal
- If your dog poses a direct and irreducible or otherwise irremediable threat to the safety or health of other residents
- If your dog does not provide service dog duties
- If allowing your service dog would cause the landlord an undue burden
- If the dog’s presence fundamentally changes the nature of the operation of the premises