The Difference Among Pets, Service & Companion Animals

The discussion surrounding pets, service animals, and companion animals has gained significant attention within property management and real estate circles lately. Particularly in the context of renting out properties in California, it has become crucial for landlords to address the needs of tenants who own such animals.

The Difference Among Pets, Service & Companion Animals

When it comes to handling animals and renters, it’s important to be aware of the potential pitfalls related to fair housing. Charging pet rent for an emotional support animal or refusing a tenant with a Seeing Eye Dog can lead to severe legal consequences. To help you navigate the laws and requirements concerning pets, service animals, and companion animals in your LA County rental home, we have compiled a concise guide.

Common Pets in Rental Property

While there are no specific federal, state, or local laws mandating landlords to permit pets in their rental properties, it is worth considering the benefits of allowing them. Our recommendation is to contemplate allowing pets, as we have observed that pet-friendly properties tend to be rented out more quickly, and landlords can often generate additional income through pet rent and fees. Furthermore, tenants with pets tend to stay for longer durations, as they prefer to avoid the hassle of searching for another pet-friendly property and paying an additional pet deposit. However, it’s important to note that the rules differ when it comes to service and companion animals.

Fair Housing Act & Americans with Disabilities Act

Service and companion animals fall under the purview of two specific federal laws, namely the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. These laws are in place to safeguard individuals with physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities from discrimination. It is important to note that under these laws, landlords are prohibited from denying tenants the use of a service animal or a companion animal, which typically refers to emotional support animals or therapy animals. As a landlord, you are obligated to accommodate these animals as they are considered necessary aids, similar to wheelchairs, braille signs, or ramps.

While you have the right to allow “pets” on your property, you are entitled to charge a pet deposit, a pet fee, and even monthly pet rent. However, it is crucial to understand that these additional charges are not permissible when a tenant has a service or companion animal.

The Difference between Service Animals vs Companion Animals

Service animals play a crucial role in assisting individuals with specific tasks related to their disabilities. When a tenant requires a service animal for a physical or intellectual disability, it is usually evident why the animal is necessary. Therefore, it is important to refrain from asking for specific details or reasons, as you wouldn’t inquire why someone with a visual impairment needs a Seeing Eye Dog.

On the other hand, companion animals serve a different purpose. They are not formally trained or certified, but they provide emotional support and comfort to their owners. These animals are acquired based on the recommendation of a healthcare professional. If a tenant requests an emotional support animal or a companion animal, and the disability is not immediately apparent, you may ask for documentation. In such cases, you can respectfully request documentation from a medical professional explaining the disability and the necessity of the animal. It is essential to approach these situations with respect rather than adopting an adversarial stance, as your tenant is simply exercising their rights.

Service & Companion Animal Responsibilities

Although you cannot charge a pet fee or pet rent, it is still within your rights to collect a security deposit from any tenant who moves into your property. This security deposit can be utilized at the end of the lease term to address any damages caused by the service or support animal. Additionally, you have the authority to require your tenant to clean up after the animal and ensure that it does not pose a threat or disturbance to other tenants or the property.

Comprehending the distinctions between pets and service or support animals can be challenging, especially considering that fair housing laws are subject to change. It is crucial to remain informed and stay updated on the latest regulations concerning pets and service or companion animals. If you require assistance navigating these requirements and laws, we encourage you to reach out to us at Bell Properties. We are available to provide guidance on pet policies and address any other concerns you may have regarding your rental property.