Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals and a Landlord’s “No Pets” Policy

 

Several rental agreements include “no pets” language. This means a tenant is not allowed to have a pet of any kind at the rental property. If a tenant violates a “no pets” policy in a rental agreement, the landlord would have ground for serving the tenant a 3 day notice to cure or quit. But what happens if the tenant informs the landlord that the pet is a service animal or an emotional support animal? Must a landlord then allow such an animal to remain at the property even though it contradicts the rental agreement? The answer is a big “maybe, but likely yes.”

I previously wrote an article entitled, “Reasonable Accommodations for Rental Units for People with a Disability in California.” Essentially, landlords must be able to make reasonable accommodations to certain tenants.

There are several laws in play here, and this article is not meant to address or discuss all of these laws. The important takeaways with respect to service animals and emotional support animals as they relate to California tenancies include the following:

  • Federal and state laws require landlords to make reasonable accommodations to tenants
  • A landlord is prohibited from charging a fee as a condition of granting the accommodation (so no pet deposit or any other extra charge!)
  • Normal pet restrictions on type, size, and breed restrictions may not apply
  • The animal is not just limited to dogs or cats
  • The tenant can be required to sign reasonable rules of conduct for the animal
  • The landlord can request written verification from the tenant’s health care provider or other party that 1) the tenant meets the California definition of a disability, and 2) the animal is related to and needed for the disability. However, the landlord cannot demand that the nature of the disability be identified

The landlord may be able to deny the animal under limited circumstances, including:

  • If the animal poses a threat to the health or safety of others
  • Is creating a nuisance
  • Is damaging property

When a tenant informs the landlord that a pet is needed due to a disability or for emotional support, the landlord must act carefully and should consult with a disability attorney as well as an eviction attorney before taking action.

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