Dogs and cats are typically considered pets, and if you don’t want to allow them in your Alhambra rental property, you aren’t required to.
Pet-friendly properties tend to rent faster and for more money, so we often recommend allowing pets. But, we understand they can be a liability and we respect the owners who would prefer pet-free properties.
While pets are optional, service and support animals are not. This is an important distinction, and one that has serious legal consequences.
Federal Laws Protect People with Disabilities
You need a pet policy in place to avoid renting to tenants with dangerous dog breeds. Your insurance may not cover those animals. You can also restrict size, number, and age when it comes to pets. There are no laws protecting pets.
With service animals, you need to know the two specific laws that govern how you treat tenants and applicants with disabilities:
- The Fair Housing Act
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
Both of these laws protect people with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities against discrimination. You cannot deny an otherwise qualified tenant from renting your home because that tenant has a wheelchair. The same laws state that you cannot discriminate against a tenant who needs a service animal.
The service animal your tenant needs is seen as an accommodation, not as a pet. Therefore, not only do you have to allow it; you also cannot charge a pet deposit, pet fee, or pet rent.
Service Animals vs. Companion Animals
When your Alhambra tenant needs a service animal for a physical or intellectual disability, it’s usually obvious, and you cannot ask what the service animal is for. Typically, a person who is blind will not have to explain their need for a Seeing Eye Dog. Service animals are certified and trained.
However, you can ask for documentation if the disability is not immediately apparent and your tenant is requesting an emotional support animal or a companion animal. Companion animals are different from service animals in that they can be any type of animal and they aren’t trained to do a specific task or serve a specific purpose. They offer comfort and support.
In these cases, you can ask your tenant for documentation from a medical professional explaining the disability and why the animal is required. If you’re not working with an Alhambra property management company, be careful here. Asking for documentation is permitted, but being difficult or expressing doubt can get you into legal trouble. Do your due diligence, but don’t set yourself up for a discrimination claim.
Tenant Responsibilities with Pets and Service Animals
When you allow a tenant to move in with a pet, you can require a pet fee or a pet deposit, and you can also charge a pet rent every month. Most tenants will be willing to pay a bit more for the privilege of moving in their furry family members. You should screen the pet and require pictures and vet records so you know the animal is safe and healthy.
With service animals, you cannot ask for extra pet rent, a pet deposit, or a pet fee. You should still collect a security deposit, however, and you can use that deposit at the end of the lease term if there is any damage from the service animal. The tenant is still required to clean up after the animal and ensure it isn’t a nuisance to other tenants or the property.
Understanding how pets are different from service and support animals is not always easy. Fair housing laws are always changing and you need to protect yourself from legal mistakes that are easy to make. If you have any questions, please contact us at ZenPro Property Management.