Tenants attemping to avoid “No Pet” policies…

business attorney Lafayette IN

Ryan C. Munden

Posted by Ryan C. Munden, on November 3, 2014

Tenants attempting to avoid “No Pet” policies by claiming pet is Emotional Support Animal protected under FHA.

Have a “No Pet” policy?  Then you may have also squared off with a tenant claiming that their beloved Maltese is an emotional support animal in response to a “No Pet” violation notice.    Landlords are finding that federal law trumps their policy in cases where a disabled tenant requests to keep an assistance animal, including an “emotional support animal.” Landlords are required to reasonably accommodate such requests under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – even where the lease prohibits pets.  But many landlords question whether a tenant is sincere in such requests or are taking advantage of the system.  The potential liability imposed upon landlords for guessing wrong in such situations is worth keeping in mind the following considerations when responding to tenants’ requests for assistance animals:

1.  The definition of “disability” under the FHA includes many conditions that may not be readily apparent to the landlord.  Therefore, landlords should exercise extreme caution when assuming that someone is not suffering from a disability.

2.  Upon receiving a request for a reasonable accommodation, the FHA contains strict requirements concerning what a landlord can and cannot ask a tenant concerning their disability.  By simply asking a prohibited question landlords can potentially expose themselves to liability for an FHA violation.

3.  The FHA prohibits landlords from assessing certain fees for assistance animals while it permits the assessment of other charges.  Landlords should become familiar with what fees are allowed and those that are not.

It is important for landlords to understand their obligations under the Fair Housing Act before responding to requests for reasonable accommodations, including requests to keep an assistance animal.  Just because a request is made by a tenant does not mean that an accommodation is required.  Moreover, just because an accommodation is required does not mean that all amounts assessed against a tenant are prohibited.  Landlords should seek the advice of counsel before addressing FHA issues with tenants so that those who are entitled to assistance receive it without delay, and also to try and identify those who are just manipulating the system.  The cost of getting it wrong could be much higher than the cost of getting it right.

**Reiling Teder & Schrier, LLC is an Indiana Limited Liability Company. The information contained in this website has been prepared by Reiling Teder & Schrier, LLC for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice. The information on this website should not be relied upon to make any decision, legal or otherwise. If you have any specific questions or inquiries regarding any of the information contained in this website, you should consult with an attorney licensed in your state. The information contained in this website pertains only to matters of Indiana law and the laws of other states may be completely different from the laws of the State of Indiana.