In today’s lesson, Marc Schwartz explains how service animals are not considered pets and are protected by the ADA and Fair Housing Act.
Learn the difference between service animals and support animals. For landlords, find out how to handle pet deposits and any property damage sustained by the service animal.
Mike: Welcome back to the FlipNerd.com REI Classroom where experts from across the real estate investing industry teach you quick lessons to take your business to the next level. And now, let’s meet today’s expert host.
Marc: Hi. My name is Marc Schwartz and I’m from the Law Offices of Marc Schwartz here in sunny California. I am going to be your instructor today for the REI FlipNerd Classroom on the topic of service animals.
Mike: This REI Classroom real estate lesson is sponsored by UglyOpportunities.com.
Marc: Now, this is a relatively new area of the law and most of my clients don’t really know about this until all of a sudden a tenant wants to have an animal and their property has a no pet policy. Oftentimes, landlords of both residential and multi-family properties have no pet policies because animals can do damage. Well, guess what? Service animals are not pets. Therefore, there is a whole slew of laws that apply to these types of animals.
If you want to go look it up, it’s under the Fair Housing Act at the federal level, and then at the state level, you have to go check your law. But in California, where I am, it’s the Fair Employment and Fair Housing Act. I’m going to speak mostly for California, but I’ll touch upon the federal law.
Now, service animals are a protected animal under the ADA, the Americans with Disability Act. At least here in California, they don’t differentiate between service animal and support animal. But I’m going to tell you in general because other states do differentiate. A service animal is an animal that is supposed to help you with our physical disabilities and a comfort animal or an emotional support animal is helping you with your mental.
Now, in California, it doesn’t matter if it’s a service or a comfort animal, you cannot discriminate against tenants who have these animals. You must make reasonable accommodations. Again, in California, it doesn’t matter what the breed is. It doesn’t matter what the size of the animal is. If it is a service or comfort animal, you cannot discriminate. In other states, they actually do allow you to discriminate based on breed.
So landlords will often come up to me and say, “There’s this huge German Shepherd. I don’t want him there. What can I do?” Well, let me tell you what you can do. One is you can ask for a note. Now, you can’t ask for a note regarding the disability, but you can ask for a doctor’s note saying that this person is disabled and this person is in need of the service animal.
At that point, you have to make a reasonable accommodation and let them have the animal in the property. Now, if you have a 200-square foot house or 200-square foot unit and you’re trying to put a big animal in there, you actually don’t have to allow that. At least, I don’t think you would have to allow that because I don’t think that’s in a reasonable accommodation.
So the next question that a lot of landlords ask me is, “Well, can I charge a pet deposit?” Well, as I said at the beginning, these aren’t pets. So the answer is no. You cannot charge a pet deposit. So then the next question I often get from landlords is, “Okay. Well, what can I do?” Well, what you can do is you can send out reasonable policies and guidelines for the property.
So, for example, if the person or tenant has a service animal, a comfort animal and they’re pooping and they’re chewing up the garden, and they’re digging holes, well that’s against the policy of the property. You can go ahead and you can actually make the tenant comply with the rules and regulations for the property. Nobody is above turning your property into a pit. But, that being said, you’re going to have to deal with tenants who have mental or physical disabilities and need these animals.
So if you have any other questions on this, I encourage you to go check out your state’s local law. Again, my name is Marc Schwartz. I’m from the Law Offices of me. I really appreciate you taking the time to watch this video and I hope you got something out of it. I hope you have a good day. Thank you very much.
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