Landlords are obligated under fair housing laws to grant reasonable accommodations for their tenant’s disabilities if the accommodation would afford the disabled tenant an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling as a non-disabled tenant.
So what happens when your tenant asks for permission to use and live with an assistance animal? First, do not fixate on whether the tenant’s assistance animal is a service animal versus an emotional support animal. Instead, the relevant questions are: Does the tenant have a disability? Is there a disability-related need for the assistance animal?
If the answers to these questions are obviously “yes,” you cannot ask for proof through medical documentation. If the answers are not obvious, you may ask for reliable documentation of the tenant’s disability and his/her disability-related need for an assistance animal.
If the tenant has a disability-related need for his/her assistance animal, you must provide exceptions to your “no-pet” policies and you must waive pet fees and deposits. Breed, size, and weight restrictions do not apply to assistance animals.
There are exceptions to these obligations if the assistance animal would create a direct threat to the health and safety of others; cause substantial property damage; require a fundamental alteration in the nature of a housing program; or result in an undue financial or administrative burden.
The Civil Rights Division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office is happy to provide outreach and informational presentations on housing laws, but cannot provide legal advice. If you have questions about your obligations as a landlord, please consult legal counsel. If you’d like to schedule an outreach event, please contact us at (602)542-5263.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich