We have discussed the topic of Fair Housing before on this blog. One of the most important fair housing concerns as property managers is Disability; specifically, having applicants with pets, any kind of pet, claiming that their pet is a “service animal” and you, therefore, MUST permit the animal to live with the applicant. Some people have abused this law. Effective as of March 15, 2011, the ADA has a new and specific definition for “service animal.” ”Service animal” means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition. Note that it must be a dog (no cats, iguanas, etc.) specifically trained for the task.
Now with that being said, please remember you can NOT ask the applicant what their disability is! However, you can ask how the animal helps them and you can require them to provide documentation from a medical professional that they have a legitimate need (there is a HUD form). Here is a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal on this issue you might find interesting:
Blog posted by John Durham, Marketing and Communications Director with Excalibur Home Management, LLC.