Great post by Kimo Stowell on The Fair Housing Act and Companion Animals. Whether in Hawaii, as Kimo is, or in south Florida, this is a national law. Know your rights!
The Fair Housing Act and
Companion Animals -
You and your assistance animal have rights-
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prevents discrimination against tenants in their homes.
Under the FHA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which significantly limits a person’s major life activities. Regardless if a lease says "No pets allowed" or restricts types of pets, landlords are REQUIRED to make what is called a “reasonable accommodation” to permit pets who act as assistance animals, which includes animals who provide emotional support. Assistance animals are in a different legal classification than pets who are not assistance animals, which is why pet restrictions and fees are waived in these circumstances. In addition, assistance animals do not require individual training or certification. Assistance animals are animals that work, assist and/or perform tasks and services for the benefit of a person with a disability or provide emotional support that improves the symptoms of a disability.
What’s the difference between a pet, a service animal, and an assistance animal?
Pet animals are commonly defined as domesticated or tamed animals treated with affection and kept for companionship and pleasure. Landlords have the right to allow or deny a pet on their leased property.
Service animals are categorized as animals trained to do a specific task for their owner. The most common example is a guide dog. Service animals are allowed in public accommodations because of the owner’s need for the animal at all times. Federal law prohibits landlords from excluding service animals
Assistance animals can be a cat, dog or other type of companion animal(not restricted under state quarantine law), and does not need to be trained to perform a service. The emotional and/or physical benefits from the animal living in the home are what qualify the animal as an assistance animal. A letter from a medical doctor or therapist is all that is needed to classify an animal as an assistance animal. Federal law protects tenants who require assistance animals for mental or physical health issues. Breed and weight restrictions do not apply to assistance or service animals and landlords cannot deny tenancy based on those factors. A landlord can however, require a pet deposit regardless of the status of the animal be it a service, assistance, or a pet animal. Assistance animals are allowed in all housing, with the following exceptions.
All types of housing, including public housing, are covered by the FHA EXCEPT:
1. Rental dwellings of four or less units, where a unit is occupied by the owner;
2. Single family homes sold or rented by the owner without the use of a broker;
3. Housing owned by private clubs or religious organizations that restrict occupancy in housing units to their members.
Landlords must agree to a reasonable accommodation request if the disability claim is true and if the request does not create a hardship on the landlord or other tenants. If a request for a reasonable accommodation is denied by the landlord, you have the right to request that a government agency investigate your claim that the landlord is discriminating against you.
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