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New Guidelines for Service Animals under Property Management

There seems to be some ambiguity concerning the responsibility of property managers in accommodating service animals on rental property. It’s therefore important to stay up to date with federal, state and local guidelines for service animals under property management. At Ventura Property Management, we comply with the law and successfully oversee many service animals in our units.

What is a Service Animal?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal refers to a working animal that is trained to perform tasks. The tasks performed are for the benefit of the individual with a disability. Such tasks must also be directly related to the disability of the individual.

Can Tenants Make Reasonable Accommodation Requests?

A reasonable accommodation request refers to an adjustment or exception to a policy or practice for a person with a disability. The adjustment is meant to provide equal opportunity to the individual to use and enjoy the rental property.

While it’s not necessary for the accommodation request to be a written one, documentation of the request avoids miscommunication. In case of a later dispute about whether or when the request was made, the tenant can produce supporting documentation.

A reasonable accommodation request can be made either before or after acquiring a service animal. Property managers have the obligation to ask relevant questions to help in determining if an animal is a service animal.

Which are the Criteria Used to Grant Requested Accommodation Requests?

There are certain assessments that help property managers in deciding whether or not to grant reasonable accommodation requests. Some of the questions asked when assessing requested accommodation requests include:

  • Does the tenant have an observable disability?
  • Is there available information that proves that the tenant has a disability?
  • Is there information that reasonably supports the accommodation request? (Including eligibility for housing assistance or receipts of disability benefits and services)
  • Is there information that proves the service animal performs tasks for the tenant?

Under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), property managers can request information regarding non-observable disabilities. Such as mild mental impairments that affect bodily functions. The tenant is however entitled to his or her medical diagnosis.

Observable disabilities include mobility limitations, blindness, deafness and other impairments with observable symptoms such as autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy among others. Such impairments cannot be reasonably attributed to non-medical causes by a layperson.

What are the General Considerations for Service Animals?

The FHA requires the health and safety of all tenants to be upheld. Even with the adjusted dwelling of an individual with a disability. Such an accommodation request should not pose a threat to the health and safety of other individuals.

Reasonable accommodation should also not result in substantial property damage for others. Property managers can, therefore, decline accommodation requests if the threat posed cannot be reduced to an acceptable level.

No fee should be charged for granting a reasonable accommodation request. There should also be no charge of deposit or fee for a service animal. The tenant with a service animal is responsible for maintaining, controlling and providing veterinary care to the animal.

Conclusion

Tenants with service animals and property managers should adhere to the guidelines for service animals under property management. Lack of information should not be an excuse for violating the laid out guidelines.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.