Hello, today we're going to talk about service animals -- how to properly open a conversation with the owner of service animals, how to verify documentation provided, and when to allow multiple animals as service animals in a property.
There’s a lot of confusion on what animals are considered service animals. Sometimes, it is obvious that we are dealing with service animals such as a seeing-eye dog. However, when the animal serves an emotional need, it is not obvious.
People with disabilities are a protected class according to Fair Housing regulations so we need to be careful on how we approach them. In managing your property, pay attention to the engagement process. When an applicant has a service animal, do not question the person’s disability but engage him in a conversation. Create a standard form with the questions you want to ask which they can take to their medical provider who can verify their disability.
When a request for a service animal is submitted, you have the right and the opportunity to verify all information on the application, and you should. We routinely call the issuing medical facility to verify if the signature is valid. According to our attorney, the person does not have to be a medical professional to verify the need of a service animal. Anyone who knows the disabled person well enough, such as a caregiver, a counselor, etc., can make the diagnosis, and can verify the need of a service animal.
What if you receive a document from out of state, or over the Internet from a provider which you think does not even know the applicant? In this case, our attorney suggests that it is not unreasonable to request the opinion of a local person who knows the applicant in person to verify the conditions stated.
When a person has one disability you need to allow only one service animal. If a person is requesting several service animals in the home, he or she needs to provide several doctor’s note for several conditions.
Two important things to take away from this video are:
1.) You need to be careful not to question the existence of the disability, but just verify the authenticity of the documents.
2.) Know that you cannot charge any pet fees, pet rent, or pet application fees because the service animal is not a pet. We can, however, mandate that the service animal follows all your house rules in regards to all animals (pet or service animals). If the service animal is violating the rules you set forth in your lease agreement or pet addendum, we can request the tenant to get a different service animal instead.
Service animals is a very new topic, very sensitive, and it can cause legal issues if not followed properly. If you have any questions on the subject, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help you out.