We all love our furry friends and want to take them everywhere we go. If you’re like me and you love animals, you know that they are part of the family and our best friends. What’s worse than a landlord saying that your family member can’t be in your new home? One of the huge benefits of owning a home is that you never have to worry about “no pet” policies. By owning your house, you have the right to keep your pets there with the understanding that you bear full responsibility for any damage they may cause. However, many landlords do not want to take the risk of having pets living at their property. This is all up to the landlord, and every owner is different. For your protection, you should understand your rights as a tenant and the laws that surround emotional support and service animals.
Let’s start by learning the terminology. These terms can be confusing at first. Many people don’t know the difference between service animals, emotional support animals, and therapy animals. Professionals and landlords know the differences between them. This is very important when it comes to housing laws. Government officials created these laws to protect tenants. As a tenant, knowing the laws and the terminology that goes with them helps protect you from unfair discrimination.
Emotional Support Animals (also known as ESAs) and Service Animals both fall under the umbrella category of “assistive animals.” The terms “service,” “support,” “therapy,” and “assistive” are used inter-changeably. Let’s look at the difference between these.
Service Animal: In order to be classified as a true “Service Animal,” the animal must be trained to perform a task. This task must be for the benefit of a person with a mental or physical disability. Examples of service animals include seeing-eye dogs, hearing dogs, or wheelchair-pulling dogs. A service animal can only be a dog or a miniature pony.
Emotional Support Animal: ESAs provide therapeutic benefit to a person with a psychiatric disability. These animals do not require special training. ESAs can be any type of animal within reason. Both ESAs and Service Animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act in Idaho.
Therapy Animal: A Therapy Animal is a little different. Therapy Animals are not protected under the Fair Housing Act. This means that a landlord can charge a pet deposit or simply not allow this animal. These animals are not trained to support one person. Rather, Therapy Animals provide emotional support and comfort to many people. These animals often visit retirement homes, hospitals, and schools.
Idaho’s Human Rights Act prevents landlords from discriminating against anyone who is looking to rent based on several factors. These factors include race, religion, and disability. We will focus on disability. The Act also requires that owners make any necessary changes to a property in order to allow a person with a disability to access it. Under the Act, a disability is defined as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits major life activities. This law fails to mention service animals. However, the Fair Housing Act does prohibit discrimination against individuals who require service animals. This Act prevents owners from charging an extra deposit for service animals. It also bypasses any “no pets” policy. This means that even if a landlord doesn’t allow pets, your service animal must be allowed. Keep in mind, however, that you are still responsible for any damage the animal causes.
In addition to the Federal Fair Housing Act, owners must also allow emotional support animals. This is only true if the animal is necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the home. In order for your emotional support animal to be considered, you must have a disability and a related need for the animal. The animal must work, perform tasks or services, or help the emotional effects of your disability in order to fall under this legal statute. If a property doesn’t allow pets, a person can submit a Reasonable Accommodation request to the owner of the property. The request must show documentation from a qualified professional to prove that the person needs the animal due to a disability. This allows the disabled person to apply to live in the property.
According to the law in the state of Idaho, a housing provider cannot ask a disabled tenant to pay a pet deposit or additional fee for their needed animal. Also, the owner of the property cannot require any special training for the animal. The owner also cannot inquire about the tenant’s disability.
While not everyone qualifies, the protection offered by the Fair Housing Act has made great strides in allowing those who require service animals or ESAs to have equal housing rights. However, you should not try to take advantage of this law. There have been many instances of tenants lying about a disability in order to bypass a pet deposit. This is immoral and also illegal. More of these cases may cause changes to the laws that help disabled individuals. The Fair Housing Act was created for those with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to enjoy housing. If you do not have a disability, our experts recommend that you don’t try to manipulate the law to work in your favor. Remember, even if you don’t have to pay an initial pet deposit, you are still responsible for any damage your pet causes.
If you do not have a disability that requires a service animal or ESA, we recommend searching for pet-friendly properties. There are tons of them, and those property owners will be more than happy to house you and your furry friends! Looking for a home that allows meowers and woofers? Contact us here at CDA Real Estate Investment and Property Management. We can match you with the perfect place for your whole family!