No Pets Allowed. No Exceptions

Friday, October 12, 2012

It is estimated that more than 9,000 people in the United States use guide dogs through a formal guide dog training program for assistance in performing daily life activities. Many more people are estimated to use a non-formally trained guide dog. An additional 5,000 to 10,000 people use emotional support animals to help alleviate the effects of a mental disability, such as depression or anxiety.

Many housing providers are unaware that it is illegal to refuse a tenant with a disability the right to have a service or support animal. While “no-pet” policies are legal, a housing provider must be prepared to make an exception to the rule for disabled tenants.

The Fair Housing Act, amended in 1988, requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations in their policies or rules to afford people with disabilities the right to use and enjoy their housing on equal terms with non-disabled tenants.

The most common accommodations include allowing tenants with disabilities to have live-in caregivers, service or emotional support animals, handicap parking spaces, or a transfer of units.
In most cases, housing providers are legally required to grant accommodations for disabled tenants.

An accommodation request can be denied if granting the accommodation would cause an undue financial or administrative burden for the housing provider, or would fundamentally alter their business.  Requesting that a housing provider install an elevator at the property, for example, would in most cases be considered an undue financial burden.

Property owners are expected to absorb somecosts as a result of granting an accommodation. If a tenant  is requesting a designated handicap space at a property with ample, first come, first-served parking, a housing provider would be expected to pay for the cost of installing appropriate signage and/or painting blue lines on the pavement to indicate handicap parking.

A housing provider can’t charge extra fees or require additional security deposits as a condition for granting an accommodation. For instance, a disabled tenant cannot be charged a pet deposit fee in order to have their service or emotional support animal live with them in their unit.