Service animals and companion animals are very different from pets, and property management laws in Modesto, CA require you to avoid discriminating against tenants who need them. There can be some serious legal fallout if you try to deny tenants who need service animals. The law protects service animals and sees them as accommodations that need to be made, not as pets.
Establishing a Pet Policy
As a landlord, you are not required to allow pets into your property. You can establish a no-pet policy and rent only to people who don’t have them. However, if a tenant has a disability and requires the assistance of an animal, you cannot refuse to rent to that tenant or deny the animal. Service animals are protected as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and fair housing laws require you to allow them.
Identifying Service and Companion Animals
Service and companion animals are not one-size-fits-all. There are diverse animals with different sets of skills to assist people who need them. Most people associate service animals with dogs that help people with visual impairments. Individuals with physical disabilities rely on animals to remain mobile and stay safe. There are also therapy animals that can help people with psychological or emotional disabilities manage their lives and their feelings. Service animals are often dogs, but they can also be miniature horses. These animals are the same size as a dog, and they are very intelligent. They are trained to provide incredible services to the people who need them. Any exotic animals or poisonous snakes should not be passed off as service animals. If a tenant claims that something unusual is a service animal, talk to a lawyer or a property manager to find out if it’s a legitimate possibility.
Laws Pertaining to Service Animals
You need to adopt the mindset that service and companion animals are not to be treated as pets. You cannot charge a pet fee or a pet deposit when a tenant moves in with these animals. Any damage that’s caused by a service animal needs to be paid for out of the regular security deposit. If you are not familiar with the Fair Housing Act or the ADA, educate yourself or make sure you’re working with a property manager who is up to date on these requirements.
Don’t put your property in jeopardy by mishandling tenants who need service animals. If you have any questions, contact Valley Oak Property Management.