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Legal Q & A: Service and Emotional Support Animals – by Franco Simone, Esq.

Posted on 01. Apr, 2018 by in all, Magazine Articles

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Reasonable Accommodation: Modifications made to existing rules and practices that are necessary for an individual with a disability to have equal opportunity and peaceful enjoyment. 

Disabled Person: An individual with a sensory, mental or physical condition that restricts one or more important activities (such as walking, seeing, hearing, working, etc.). 

Assistance Animals: HUD compliance guidelines define assistive animals as “animals that serve as a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities by assisting those individuals in some identifiable way by making it possible for them to make more effective use of their housing.” 

Service Animals: Assistance animals that are trained to perform certain services or tasks for a disabled person. 

Emotional Support: An animal that mitigates the effects of a mental or emotional disability.

Q: My property has a no-pet policy. Does that include assistance animals and emotional support animals?
A: No. Assistance animals and emotional support animals are not pets. If the tenant makes a reasonable accommodation request for an assistance animal and/or an emotional support animal, federal law requires you to make the accommodation.

Q: Are there certain breeds or types of animals that cannot be assistance animals?
A: No. Currently there are no breed restrictions for assistance animals.

Q: Are there certain breeds or types of animals that cannot be emotional support animals?
A: No. Currently there are no breed restrictions for emotional support animals.

Q: Are assistance animals required to wear a vest?
A: Assistance animals are not required to wear vests.

Q: Can I verify that an assistance animal is necessary?
A: Yes, if your tenant has a disability that is not readily apparent or known, you may ask your tenant to provide a note from their doctor stating that they have a disability and that they need an assistance animal. You may not ask the tenant to describe their disability to you or explain how the animal will assist them. If the tenant refuses to provide documentation for the necessity of an assistance animal, then depending on your lease, you may serve the tenant with the appropriate notice to remove the assistance animal. Please contact a landlord/tenant attorney prior to serving such notice.

Q: Can I require that the assistance animal be trained?
A: No. According to HUD, assistance animals do not necessarily need specialized training. At this time, it is not advisable to inquire into assistance animals training once you receive a reasonable accommodation request from a tenant. 

Q: Can I limit the number of assistance animals I allow each tenant to have?
A: Tenants with disabilities might require different animals for different purposes. However, tenants should not require multiple animals for the same purpose. You may ask your tenant to provide a note from their doctor stating that they have a disability and that they need an assistance animal.

Q: Can I limit the size of all animals that I allow to occupy my property?
A: No, you cannot limit the weight of an assistance animal or an emotional support animal. Assistance animals and emotional support animals are not pets so your regular rules regarding pets do not apply. This includes all restrictions on weight, breed, and size of service animals.

Q: Does my tenant with an assistance animal have to supervise the animal?
A: Yes, the tenant is responsible for supervising the assistance animal. Improper supervision or repeated bad behavior by the animal can be cause to serve the tenant with the appropriate notice. Please contact a landlord/tenant attorney prior to serving such notice.

 

Attorney Franco Simone, of Simone & Associates and The Landlords’ Legal Center has been doing evictions for over 20 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Tel: 619-235-6180, website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email info@simonelawfirm.com.