Renting with Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Finding a decent housing option with a dog can be very challenging.  In fact, when it comes to renting a house with a dog, landlords and tenants often clash. Landlords across the country are hesitant to rent to tenants with dogs, citing a variety of reasons such as damage to their property and barking. Fortunately with a Registered Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal, you can bypass many of the hurdles and not face discrimination in the rental process.

Housing With Service Dogs

One of the legal rights people with service dogs have is to go everywhere with their dog and live in housing even when pets and/or specific dog breeds are not allowed. The law governing this right is the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) which provides the protection to individuals with a service dog who are seeking housing.

For landlords, it is essential to learn about the different types of service animals and the policies they must follow before renting their properties. Denying a tenant with a service animal or ESA is not compliant with the law against discrimination.

Laws Protecting Renters

Housing/ Rental issues with a service dog are protected by the following laws. All of these laws protect disabled handlers and their service animals, however it is important to keep in mind that these rights are contingent on :

  • The tenant having a disability (case law suggests the landlord may be permitted to require proof of disability)
  • Landlord/housing authority being informed of the disability
  • Reasonable accommodation may be necessary to afford tenant an equal opportunity to use and enjoy his or her dwelling (case law suggests the landlord may be permitted to require proof of need and proof of training for a service dog)
  • Reasonable accommodation would not constitute an undue burden or fundamental alteration
What Are "Reasonable Accomodations"?

Reasonable accommodations are when a tenant asks a landlord to make a change in an existing rule or policy to have equal access to a property. The various requirements landlords must make for service animals or ESAs to reside in a rental unit are addressed and protected by The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as a reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities.

Common Disabilities and Conditions

Housing/ Rental issues with a service dog are protected by the following laws:

Below are some common examples of tasks Service Dogs are trained to support. Keep in mind there are many “invisible disabilities” that are not ostensibly apparent, but can still be crippling without the assistance of a Service Dog

  • A guide dog/seeing eye dog assisting a person who is blind/visually impaired with way-finding
  • A hearing dog altering a deaf/hearing impaired person when a sound occurs
  • A seizure response dog assisting a person with a seizure disorder by alerting them in prior to the onset of a seizure
  • A psychiatric service dog identifying the onset of a psychiatric problem and mitigating the impact of the attack

 

Additionally, these symptoms can all be addressed with Service Animals

  • Dizziness leading to balance problems
  • Panic attacks
  • Excessive stress
  • Low blood sugar
  • Seizures
  • Depression

 

Additionally, there are many psychiatric problems that Service Animals can help

  • Vertigo (dizziness/balance problems)
  • Anxiety disorders such as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Debilitating chronic illnesses
  • Age-Related cognitive decline
  • Any Psychiatric condition such as depression, social phobia, dyslexia, stress, separation anxiety, etc.
  • Speech problems
  • Seizures
  • Bipolar disorders
Housing With Service Dogs

A lawsuit can be filed against a landlord if they deny a potential tenant based on the fact that they own a service dog or Emotional Support Animal. As the law states, landlords and property owners are required to make reasonable accommodations and change their policies for individuals with service dogs.

Landlords must understand that there is a key difference between pets and Service Animals or Emotional Support Animals. A lawsuit can be filed against a landlord if they deny a potential tenant based on the fact that they own a service dog.Even if the housing lease prohibits pets, a landlord will be forced to accept a service dog. A disabled person with a service dog has the right to ask the landlord to allow their service dog regardless of the language in the lease, since the service animal is not a pet. This is called a request for a reasonable accommodation. Denial for such a request is discriminatory and illegal.