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How to Handle Support Animals at Your Rental Properties in Portland, OR

How to Handle Support Animals at Your Rental Properties in Portland, OR

As a landlord, you may encounter a potential tenant with one of the 500,000 service dogs working in the US. While you may not want to allow animals in your rental property, service and support animals are not pets. You must follow the law to ensure you do not discriminate and find yourself in hot water.

Follow this guide to learn how to handle service and support animals in your rental.

Fair Housing Laws

As a responsible landlord, you likely have a screening process that includes a background check, credit check, and qualifying questions. This process verifies whether a potential tenant meets the requirements for renting your property. One of these requirements could be no pets.

However, you cannot disqualify someone with a service animal from pet-restricted rentals. Service animals are not pets per the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). You cannot charge an additional pet deposit for a service animal.

While only dogs qualify as service animals, any animal can be an emotional support animal.

What Can a Landlord Ask?

To help with tenant retention, you want to start your relationship with your tenant on the right foot. There are some questions you can ask and others that you shouldn't. Landlords can request documentation from a health professional that states that an emotional support animal is required because of a disability.

Sometimes, the need for emotional support or a service animal is not obvious. Documentation from a medical or mental health professional should communicate the need.

You cannot ask for details about medical diagnoses or medical records. You cannot require the individual to "prove" that they need the animal or require the animal to demonstrate its trained skills.

Make Reasonable Accommodations

The Fair Housing Council of Oregon requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations. While the accommodations aren't specifically defined, you need to make changes that give the tenant equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling. The accommodations should not be a financial or administrative burden on you.

How to Handle Property Damage

Service animals have a significant amount of training and do not typically cause damage the way an untrained pet would. However, if a tenant's service dog causes damage, you can require the owner to pay for the repairs.

Document the damage and provide an estimate for the cost of repairs. As with tenants who do not have a service animal, you can keep the security deposit to pay for damages.

Welcome Support Animals Into Your Rental

As a landlord, you want happy tenants who will pay their rent on time and renew their lease. While you may want to protect your property by not allowing pets, you cannot deny tenants with support animals. Doing so can put you in violation of federal and state fair housing laws.

Working with a property manager can help you navigate these laws to ensure you follow them and treat everyone fairly. The property managers at Kerr Properties, Inc. are familiar with the law and help landlords navigate fair housing laws.

Stay legally compliant when renting to tenants with service animals by working with Kerr Properties, Inc.