If a person is physically or psychiatrically impaired (disabled) and has an individually trained service dog to perform a major life task that the person has trouble performing for him or herself, the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 requires the landlord/property manager to make a reasonable accommodation to their policies and allow the tenant to have service dog. There are no exclusions, based on the breed or animal weight.
That means if the property manager has a “cats only” policy, they must accept your service dog. If they have a policy that allows dogs weighing no more than 30 lbs. and your service dog weighs 75 lbs., they must make a change in the rules to accommodate you. If they accept all dogs, except pit bulls, and you have a pit bull, they must allow your pit bull to reside with you.
Property managers/landlords are NOT required to make a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act for Service Dogs in these cases:
Although federal law (Fair Housing Act) requires landlords and property managers to accommodate your service dog, they can require a short verification form to be completed by your physician confirming your disability. Despite how much the property manager/landlord does NOT want your service dog, federal law requires him/her to make a reasonable accommodation in the rules. If they don’t, they are discriminating against a disabled person and are in violation of federal law.
Click here to view an important document from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development that addresses this issue (see the 3rd page, second column).
So how do Fair Housing laws apply to real life situations? Here are some examples:
John has been diagnosed with severe PTSD and is disabled as defined by the Fair Housing Act. His doctor prescribes John a dog to help lead John away from overly stressful situations. John asks his landlord if he can have the dog as a reasonable accommodation for his disability. His landlord says yes, but tells John he’ll need to pay a $250 pet deposit and must provide proof that the animal is trained.
Question: Did John’s landlord correctly handle John’s request under the Fair Housing Act?
Answer: No, John’s landlord did not handle his request correctly. The landlord cannot charge John a pet deposit for his animal because it is not a pet, but rather a trained service dog required for his psychiatric impairment. Further, the landlord cannot ask for proof that the animal is trained.