Whether you’re a professional landlord or a property owner who is self-managing, you need to be educated about and prepared for fair housing laws. One of the most challenging fair housing areas for most owners is service animals and companion animals. Today, we’re providing some important landlord tips that will ensure you don’t unintentionally violate the law.
Defining Service Animals and Companion Animals
There is a difference between a service animal and a companion animal. Service animals are trained to perform a specific task on behalf of a person with a disability. A common example is a seeing eye dog. That dog is trained to do things for its owner. Companion animals are generally associated more with mental or emotional disabilities. These might include anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In these cases, a person might need a dog or a cat or a flying squirrel to help them maintain their emotional balance.
Service and Companion Animals Are Not Pets
As a landlord, you need to know the rules. A service animal or a companion animal is not a pet. You cannot charge a pet deposit to your tenant. The animal is legally treated like an aid, such as a wheelchair or walking cane. So, your no-pet policy does not apply to service and companion animals. It doesn’t matter what that pet policy is. This means you cannot implement restrictions, either. You might have a policy that allows one dog under 40 pounds. But if a tenant has a companion animal that is a 90 pound Rottweiler, then you are required to allow that dog without any additional deposits.
Fair Housing Accommodations and Modifications
This is a focus of our landlord tips because most property owners don’t understand that these animals are not pets. You need to recognize your obligation to all fair housing requirements. That includes reasonable accommodations and modifications. Most of the problems that landlords have are unintentional. Usually, it’s just that someone doesn’t know the policy or the laws. This can be a costly mistake that you don’t want. Housing investigations are serious and expensive.
Be well-educated on fair housing laws, specifically on service animals and companion animals. If you have any questions about fair housing, service animals, or anything pertaining to Colorado Springs property management, please contact us at Muldoon Associates.