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Legal Issues Forum Q&A: Do I have to make room for fluffy?

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By Lorie Garland, OAR Assistant Vice President of Legal Services

At the recent Ohio Association of REALTORS Annual Convention & Expo, Cleveland attorneys Cindy Lammert, Jon Deegan and Mark Rodio put on another jammed pack risk reduction program addressing a variety of topics including team advertising, breach of fiduciary duties, service animals, inspection issues, and more. If you weren’t there you missed a fantastic program!

Although there wasn’t enough time to answer everyone’s questions, OAR legal staff is using the OAR Daily Buzz to address some of the issues that were raised. Here are two concerning reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals:

Q: A landlord with a “no pets” policy has received a request from a current tenant to allow her to have a cat. The tenant claims the cat provides emotional support for a medical condition. Is the landlord required to permit the cat?

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.

As the disability related need for the tenant’s reasonable accommodation request is not readily apparent, the landlord is permitted to require documentation from the tenant’s medical provider that she has a disability, as defined by the fair housing law, and that the accommodation requested (allowing the cat) is necessary for her to have equal access/opportunity to the housing. Upon documentation, the landlord would be required to permit the cat.

Q: I own an apartment building and have a pet policy that permits tenants to have one small dog as long as they pay a pet deposit of $100. An applicant has requested that she be permitted to have her assistance animal, which is a small dog, without paying the deposit. As my pet policy permits a small dog, can I require the tenant to pay the deposit that all my tenants with dogs have done?

A: No. An assistance animal is not a pet. The fair housing laws prohibit a landlord from charging a tenant with an assistance animal a pet fee or deposit or requiring other terms or conditions that apply to tenants with pets.



Legal articles provided in the OAR Daily Buzz are intended to provide broad, general information about the law and is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney. 

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