If you’re a renter and you have pets, you know that finding a rental isn’t always easy. But if your animal qualifies as an assistance or service animal, you may have some protections under the law.
In 1988, the Fair Housing Act was updated to include two more protected classes, familial status and disability. It also provided remedies for consumers who were discriminated against in the sale, rental, or financing of a home. Under the Fair Housing Act, Section 504, a person with disabilities may request reasonable accommodation for assistance animals, which include emotional support animals. Reasonable accommodation can include an exception or adjustment to a rule, policy, or practice, and can be requested by the tenant at any time during their tenancy. Landlords and HOAs must provide reasonable accommodation to people with disabilities so they may have an equal opportunity to use a dwelling.
The FHA defines disability as a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, and is regarded as having such impairment. It defines assistance animals as an animal “that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.”
Assistance animals are not required to have any formal training or certifications, but must have a letter from a medical doctor or therapist to be classified as an assistance animal. Emotional support animals are considered assistance animals when an official ESA letter is provided by a licensed mental health professional.
For more information about assistance animal visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.