Assistance Animals Do’s and Don’ts
One of the most important services that the UAA provides to our members is answering your phone calls. We get dozens of calls every day about all sorts of issues. But one of the questions we get asked about most often is about “Assistance Animals”. Handling this issue wrong can earn you a $10,000 fine and bad publicity in the news. So I wanted to briefly give you a run down about what you can and cannot do regarding these animal requests.
1. You cannot deny a reasonable request for a medically necessary animal.
If the animal is necessary for their disability, then they are allowed to have it. Even if it is an untrained dog. Or a cat. Or a hamster, gerbil, snake, tarantula, chicken or parakeet. Even if it is just a goldfish that helps them calm down (don’t we wish they were all goldfish? No such luck)
2. You can verify that the person is handicapped and that the animal is necessary to assist their disability
This is important. You don’t have to just take their word for it. You absolutely have the right to require some competent verification that they are not just trying to get around the rules.3. You can put in place Reasonable animal (not pet) rules
The UAA lease has a provision that allows you to do this. Of course you can prohibit the dog from barking all night, peeing on the carpet, scratching up the door, being outside without a leash, pooping all over the yard without it being cleaned up, or biting the neighbors.4. You can evict a tenant for not controlling their animal and charge them for any damage the animal has done.
And if the tenant doesn’t follow these rules, then you can evict them. You can also charge them for any damage that they did not prevent their animal from doing.5. You cannot charge pet rent, pet fees or a pet deposit – because the animal is not a pet.
It would be considered discrimination to make somebody pay more just because they are disabled. So you can’t charge a larger deposit of the tenant with an assistance animal – but you can charge a larger deposit of all your tenants going forward to cover the potential risk posed by just a few.6. Use the Assistance Animal Instructions and Forms on the UAA website.
We have worked on these forms for many years, even consulting with HUD. We are confident if you use them correctly and follow the instructions you can stay out of trouble.
If you have questions about a tenant’s request for an Assistance Animal, see the “Assistance Animal Instructions and Forms” on the UAA website or feel free to contact the UAA at 801-487-5619 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.