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Do landlords have to accommodate emotional support dogs?

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2020 | Real Estate Litigation

Whether it is a retriever trotting beside its owner or a poodle stuffed inside a handbag, dogs seem to be everywhere in the Los Angeles area. However, these pets can be both messy and destructive. If you are a landlord, you may have good reasons for wanting to prohibit renters from keeping a canine companion. 

You must be careful, however. Both federal and state law requires reasonable accommodations for service animals. Clearly, it is a violation of the law to prevent service dogs from living with their owners in a rental unit. What about emotional support dogs, though? In California, you must accommodate them as well. 

Accommodating service animals 

As a landlord, you must accept renters’ service dogs that have special training to perform specific duties. The law does not stop there, though. You have a general obligation to permit renters to bring both emotional support animals and psychiatric service dogs. 

Identifying emotional support animals 

An emotional support animal must alleviate an identified symptom of a renter’s disability or mental condition. Unlike service dogs, though, emotional support animals need not have any special training or skills. Furthermore, these creatures do not have to be dogs. For example, late last summer, an emotional support pony accompanied a passenger on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Omaha. 

Restricting emotional support animals 

While you have a broad obligation to accept a renter’s emotional support animal, you do have some flexibility. First, you may ask for documentation that proves the individual has a need for the emotional support animal. You can also reject animals if they pose a direct threat to someone’s physical safety or property. You cannot, however, ask for a pet deposit for service dogs or emotional support animals. 

Even if you love animals, you may not want one living in the rental property you own. Still, if the creature is a service dog or emotional support animal, you must be careful not to violate the law.