Landlords need to be careful when it comes to who is a pet and who is a companion. Yes, I am a pet person and so pets are people in my world, but that is beside the point.
Generally if a landlord allows pets he/she also charges an extra deposit and/or a monthly surcharge to allowing the pet. There are of course other rules that apply such as size, number of pets, where they can be exercised or allowed to go potty, and the like.
So, when a prospective tenant comes to your door and wishes to apply and hands you a doctors note letting you know that they have a companion animal to help them be successful with (fill in the disability here), they will not be required to pay the above. This is required by the Fair Housing Act.
The Fair Housing Act has been around since 1998 and gives certain rights to those with handicaps. A handicap is defined as, “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities”. A companion animal does not need the specialized training that a service animal might need. This can be confusing so it is why I am trying to share it here.
The law requires landlords to make a “reasonable accommodation” for a disabled person. So what does this look like for a landlord? It would be recommended that he/she creates a policy, rule, or procedure to allow a person with a disability to be able to fully enjoy and use their premises. To further define reasonable I recommend a stop by the American’s with Disabilities Act at http://www.ada.gov/
If still in doubt it might be a good idea to seek legal advice to make sure you are in compliance in being reasonable and in making accommodations.
- Loopholes in ADA Law Make “No Pets” Clauses Nearly Impossible to Enforce (eastbayexpress.com)
- Illinois Allows Mini Horses As Service Animals (fox2now.com)