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Legally speaking: Do I have to make room for Fido?

By Lorie Garland, OAR Assistant Vice President of Legal Services

The OAR Legal Assistance Hotline receives an array of real estate-related legal questions — including license law issues, disclosure, contract law, ethics and commission problems, among others. In an effort to help you work within the law, our “Legally Speaking” series spotlights some of the timely questions that are being asked by REALTORS. This one involves allowing pets…

Q: I manage an apartment complex with a “no pets” policy. A tenant is requesting permission to have a dog. She claims that her doctor prescribed the dog to help with depression. Do I have to allow the dog and, if so, can I charge a pet deposit?

A: The fair housing laws require a landlord to make a reasonable accommodation in his rules or policies so that a disabled individual has equal access/opportunity to the housing. Under the law, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. This would include vision, speech, hearing, mobility, and emotional illness, to name a few. Depression could qualify as a disability.

As the disability related need for the tenant’s reasonable accommodation request is not readily apparent, you are permitted to require documentation from the tenant’s doctor that she has a disability, as defined by the fair housing law, and that the accommodation requested (allowing the dog) is necessary for her to have equal access/opportunity to your housing. Upon documentation, you would be required to permit the dog and will be prohibited from charging a pet deposit. Under the fair housing laws, this dog would be considered an assistance animal, not a pet.

Click here for more information on assistance animals under the Fair Housing Act.

Tags: legal, Legally Speaking