In today’s blog, we’re talking about the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more specifically, what it has to say about service animals. As a rental property owner, you need to know what service animals are and how they may impact your responsibilities as a landlord.
During your time as a landlord, you may receive an application from someone with a disability or accept a tenant who requires the help of a service animal to fully participate in everyday life. Such an experience may cause you to wonder what defines a service animal, and how it impacts your rental, especially if you have a no pet policy.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The tasks performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. That means the dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability.
For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert them when their blood sugar is too high, or when it’s too low. A person with epilepsy may have a dog that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and help them remain safe during the seizure. Or, a person with depression may have a dog that is trained to remind them to take their medication.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses and certain other entities that provide goods or services to the public to make reasonable modifications in their policies and practices when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle. So, if you have a no pet policy, you must modify that policy to allow service animals into your home.
Think of a service animal as a tool used by a person with a disability, much like a wheel chair would be used by a person who could not walk. The service animal is not considered a pet, and may not be treated as a pet. That means you cannot decline an application due to a no pet policy and you cannot collect a pet deposit.
A tenant with a service animal is responsible for keeping the service animal under their control at all times and you are permitted to charge for damage caused to the rental property by the service animal.