- There are three criteria that must be met for an animal to be considered a service animal.
- Pet policies do not apply for service animals.
- Additional fees or deposits do not apply for service animals.
If you’ve been a Denver area real estate investor for any time, you may have received a request from your resident to allow a service animal or emotional support animal. Service animal and emotional support animal requests can be a confusing subject for many landlords. Let’s shed some light on this topic, and explain six aspects of service animals you need to know.
Service animals are covered under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a federal governance agency. Here are six practical tips about service animals Denver real estate investors need to know in order to provide the best possible environment to tenants that require this assistance.
1. Requests Can Be Made Any Time: Even if a tenant has lived at your property for a period of time with no animal, if they request a service animal – you must fully consider and process the request. This also covers requests which would current a current put to a service animal or emotional support animal. You do not necessarily need to approve all service animal requests, but you must process the request.
2. Follow the Three Criteria Test: Once a tenant puts in a service animal request or emotional support animal, they must meet three key criteria in order to be granted permission to have a service animal at your property.
- There must be a disability: The disability may be physical, emotional, or mental, but there must be some type of disability. (be cautions as the law has specific guidance on this including a rule that you may not ask what the disability is).
- The request must offset the disability: Once it is determined that a tenant does have a disability, it must be determined that the request for a service animal will help offset that disability. For example, a visually-impaired tenant may request a seeing eye dog that can help guide them around your property.
- The request must be reasonable: What is a reasonable request? This is where it can be a little tricky as what is reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to another.
3. Your Pet Policies Do Not Apply: Even if your property is a “no pet” property, service animals or emotional support animals do not apply to this restriction. These animals are not legally pets – they are service animals, so pet policies do not apply.
4. The Pet Breed is Not Relevant: Under HUD rules, the breed of the pet may not be taken into consideration for the approval or denial of the emotional support animal. All animals must be considered for an emotional support animal request.
5. Additional Fees or Deposits Do Not Apply: Once an animal is approved to be a service animal or emotional support animal, Denver property managers are not allowed to charge additional fees or require additional deposits on these animals. As these animals are not legally pets, you are not allowed to require additional payments. Speaking of pet deposits, we suggest that Denver landlords never charge for pet deposits. Why? Find out in this post.
6. Misrepresentation is a Class 2 Petty Offense to the Tenant: In Colorado, if a tenant intentionally misrepresents their request for a service animal, they can be charged with a a class two petty offense, which can result in a fine.
The above information is only a small part of service animal requests. If you are confronted with a request for a service animal, we suggest that you contact an attorney for assistance as the full process can be complicated and must be handled with care. If you incorrectly deny a legitimate service animal, the legal penalties can be severe. If you have any questions about emotional support animals, please let us know! We would be happy to help.