Service Animals Housing Q & A

Under the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), you have the right to live with a service/assistance animal as an accommodation for your disability, even in “no pet” housing.

1. How does the FHA define service animal?

The FHA itself does not define the term “service animal.” However, cases decided under the FHA have defined a service animal as an animal that is necessary to afford an individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy his/her dwelling or to participate in his/her housing service or program. Under the FHA, unlike some other laws, service animals can be species other than dogs (e.g. cats), and can be animals that provide emotional support.

2. Is special training or certification required?

Special training or certification is not required. However, there must be a relationship, or nexus, between the individual’s disability and the assistance the animal provides.

3. What kinds of questions can a housing provider ask?

When you request a reasonable accommodation, you may be asked to provide some reliable professional documentation (medical records not necessarily required), confirming that you have a disability and your service animal is necessary for you to use and enjoy your dwelling or to participate in your housing service or program.

4. Can my service animal be rejected based on size or breed?

A housing provider cannot exclude a service animal based on its breed or size.

5. Under what circumstances can my service animal be excluded?

A service animal can only be excluded if:

  1. allowing the animal would impose an undue financial or administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing program or services;
  2. the specific animal in question poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by a reasonable accommodation; or
  3. the specific animal would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by a reasonable accommodation.

6. Do I have to pay a pet deposit for my service animal?

A service animal is not a pet. Accordingly, a tenant with disabilities who uses a service animal cannot be required to pay pet deposit. A housing provider may charge a tenant who uses a service animal a general cleaning or damage deposit, but only if it is their regular practice to assess non-disabled customers similar fees. For example, a housing provider can charge a guest with a disability the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by the tenant’s service animal if it is the housing provider’s policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.

7. Can a housing provider limit where I can go with my service animal?

No. Service animals are allowed in all areas that tenants are allowed, unless itwould create an undue burden or fundamentally alter the provider’s services to provide such access.