Q: What happens when an apartment's 'no pets' policy comes up against a prospective tenant with a service dog?
A: Nothing good for the landlord's policy.
Service dogs and other assistance animals as classified by the Americans with Disabilities Act are specifically considered separate from 'pets.' These animals are trained to assist their owners with a diagnosed disability
Since service animals are covered by the ADA, landlords need to provide 'reasonable accommodations' for their owners. Which is great if you know what reasonable accommodations are.
For any person with a disability, a landlord must provide reasonable accommodations to allow the disabled person to make full use of the housing.
That means for a disabled person who needs a service animal a reasonable accommodation is an exception to the 'no pets' policy.
Accommodations that are not reasonable are ones that create a financial or administrative burden or that would alter the fundamental nature of the housing available. But courts have ruled that changing a 'no pets' policy to accommodate a service animal is reasonable.
ADA regulations don't require service animals to have a license or identification so long as they meet the regulations. So owners are not required to provide any documentation or proof.
Landlords can't require documentation for the service animal as a condition of allowing the accommodation.
If you have been denied housing because you have a service animal, that is a violation of your rights. Make sure you get a good lawyer so the landlord won't get away with it.
A service animal isn't a pet so it shouldn't be excluded under a 'no pets' policy. Explain the law to your current or prospective landlord and don't take 'no' for an answer.
- Fair Housing--It's Your Right (Office of Housing and Urban Development)
- Reasonable Accommodations and the Americans with Disabilities Act (FindLaw)
- How to Request a Reasonable Accommodation (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)