PROPERTY OWNER’S ASSISTANCE ANIMAL CHECKLIST:
STEPS TO AVOID FAIR HOUSING ACT LIABILITY
Recently, AATC hosted a Lunch and Learn regarding Service/Support Animals; I have created a brief outline of the content presented. Be sure to attend future AATC Lunch and Learns to get more details and ask questions pertaining to various multifamily legal issues. For more information, visit www.aatcnet.org
The Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3604, is a federal law that provides protection from discrimination when individuals seek to rent a residence. Recently, litigation regarding service/assistance animals has become popular, and this has put uninformed property owners at risk. Avoiding liability for discrimination under the FHA is simple and the following steps will ensure that your business does not become entangled in costly litigation. It is almost always better to accommodate a disabled tenant up front than to attempt to draw a line in the sand about a pet.
- NEVER: Refuse a reasonable requested accommodation by the potential tenant.
- One of the elements that a claimant must prove in order to meet the burden for and FHA discrimination claim is that “the defendant refused to make the requested accommodation. If you don’t refuse, then you can’t be held liable for discrimination.
- It is FAR easier to allow a tenant to have a pet than it is to try a lawsuit.
- NO PET DEPOSITS. Charging a fee for the accommodation, no matter what your policies may be, can open you up to liability.
- II. ALWAYS: Request more information about the disability.
- A landlord can always request documentation from a potential tenant with regard to their disability/need for emotional support animal.
- The tenant requesting an accommodation must demonstrate a relationship between his or her ability to function and the companionship of the animal.
- The tenant is not required to provide certifications of training or licenses.
- The tenant is not required to provide details on their disability or detailed medical records.
- III. REMEMBER: Your remedies are not waived by accommodating a disabled tenant.
- If an animal becomes a problem, as the landlord you have a right to seek damages and even eviction of the tenant. See, e.g., Woodside Village v. Hertzmark, FH-FL Rptr. 18,129 (Conn. Sup. Ct. 1993).
- Acting as a claimant seeking damages a pet DOES cause is not discrimination. Pre-emptively charging a deposit for the damages you think the pet MIGHT cause IS discrimination.
Prepared by: James N. Floyd | The Floyd Firm | 4255 Bryant Irvin Rd, Suite 204 | Fort Worth, TX 76109 (817) 926-1500 • Fax (817) 926-2081 • TheFloydFirm.com • firstname.lastname@example.org