By Neil Fjellestad & Chris De Marco
FBS Property Management
Let’s examine for a moment when an animal is not a pet. Many renters want and/or require the assistance and/or support of an animal in order to function and/or to enjoy a better quality of life. Here is a short list for your consideration when a pet is something else-
· Fair Housing laws indicate that rental owners, operators and managers must provide “reasonable accommodations” for disabled persons.
· Allowing an assistive animal is a common accommodation.
· There are numerous labels for animals that assist, serve, and perform specific tasks, offer companionship, support and comfort. Some of these animals are trained; others may not be. What these animals are not - PETS.
· Therefore animals can be allowed when the rental property is not pet-friendly. They are the “eyes, ears, legs or emotional support” of the disabled person(s). This can include residents and/or their guests.
· You must consider and determine whether accepting this animal is unreasonable for you. If you believe that the person’s request whether verbal or written is unreasonable, be prepared to defend your position. Don’t stall with your response hoping that the problem will go away. No response in a timely fashion can be construed to be an unreasonable denial. It would be wise to consult a fair housing attorney before you answer.
· Do not try to apply pet deposits, pet policies, extra rent or security deposit.
· You can request verification regarding the need for the animal if the disability and/or need is not obvious but be flexible about who the verifier is; it might be the resident himself/herself, a relative or friend that is aware of the circumstances and is willing to attest to these in writing.
· Establish and maintain reasonable policies of conduct. Since the animal(s) is/are an extension of the resident(s) well-being these policies will help to hold the resident accountable for problems and damages that can arise as a result of this accommodation.
· The disabled renter is not exempt from being a good tenant.
· Remember that breed restrictions, bans on exotic animals and farm animals were all developed as pet policies. New studies substantiate the assistive value of monkeys, parrots, miniature horses, pigs, goats, etc. Therefore, categorical denial can be challenged.