Renting to a Service Dog...

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Buyers Broker of Florida


Last month I got a call on my  rental home.  The caller asked what my pet policy was because she had a dog.  I said "It depends..."  then she added that her roommate had a "service dog".  I said "That would be a "no"...

Her voice got louder and she said "are you saying that you will not rent to my roommates service dog?"  I said "No, I am saying I will not rent to YOUR dog."

I instantly knew that I had to choose my words carefully.

Let me clarify that I am not against renting to pets...I believe however that the pet has to suit the property...particularly if there is no fenced yard. In any case, I really don't want two dogs.  I also don't want a breed of dog that my home owners insurance will not cover.  I just don't need the liability.


None the less, this was the first time in 30 years that a potential tenant mentioned a service dog.  I was intrigued to learn more.  Thats where things got interesting...

The first thing that I was able to find were internet companies that could equip you with whatever you needed. It only takes a credit card to look legitimate.  They will sell you the service dog jacket, harness, dog ID card and even a Service Dog "certification". All this fake stuff for $149 which I found to be a ripoff price.

I could buy this for all my dogs and even my cat, even though I am not disabled. Anyone can outfit their designer dog so that they can get a free pass to eat lunch at the finest resturants.  A sham that many people pull simply because the rules for service dogs are not clearly defined.


There is no organized body of government at the state or federal level that exists to monitor, train, license or authorize a service animal.


Here are the different types of Service Animals:


Therapy dog:  Is trained to provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools and disaster areas.


Service Animal: If your doctor determines that you are disabled (ADA American with Disability Act) and a service animal could aid you in leading a more normal life, you may qualify to have a service animal. A trained service animal typically takes about 2 years and 2,000 hours to train, however your pet may qualify as a service animal even without training.


Emtional Support Animal: Provides therapeutic benefit to its owner through affection and companionship.


Psychiatric Service Animal: is a service dog trained to help the handler with a psychiatric disability like a mental illness or PSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)



Here are some quick facts that landlords and real estate agents need to know:


  • The ADA (American with Disabilities) imposes no requirement to certify, register or train a service animal.  In order to qualify you must fit the description of being legally disabled and the animal must aid you in performing major life activity.


  • The service animal can move about just like a human.  They can go into hospitals, buildings, churches, work facilities, resturants and anywhere the handler needs to go.  They can travel on buses, trains and airlines for free. The service animal does not need to be only a dog, they can be any kind of animal that fits the need.


  • No one can turn down a service animal.  Pet rental policies and deposits do not apply on any rental property, any landlord, or even condominiums  You cannot restrict the size, weight, or breed. You cannot limit the type of animal either.



There are only two questions that you may ask:


1. Is the service animal required because of a disability?

2. What task has the animal been trained to do?



  • About the disability
  • Require medical documentation
  • Require special ID
  • Ask for training documentation
  • Ask the animal to perform


 I believe that a service animal is important to the quality of life for many people.  It is a wonderful thing and a great sure, I am OK with renting to a service dog.

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 Eve Alexander Orlando Buyers Agent



Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. 1~Judi Barrett 10/09/2015 10:52 AM
  2. Roy Kelley 11/15/2015 06:00 PM
  3. Praful Thakkar 08/02/2017 04:00 AM
ActiveRain Community
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service animals
renting to service dog
leasing to service animals

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Pete Xavier
Investments to Luxury - Pacific Palisades, CA
Outstanding Agent Referrals-Nationwide

Very interesting.

Dealt with many lease transactions involving pets, but never a service animal so far.

Oct 07, 2014 03:40 AM #1
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

This is a GREAT article Eve.  I wish I had known about the two questions about a month ago when a lady dragged her dog around with us, and claimed it was a service dog.  I doubt it was.

Oct 07, 2014 03:07 PM #2

Easy to get them in once you educate them of the laws. Still won't change the stares and scowls of neighbors who assume they've been given special privileges and are made to feel ostersized. Still important to make the right fit of animal to type of housing, service dog or no. I've met some very legitimate and impressive service dogs and I've met a lot of entitled adults walking the gray line to be chic and allowed to do things many others can't.

Oct 23, 2014 10:13 AM #3
Judith Parker
ProStead Realty - Charlotte, NC
CRS, GRI, CMRS, Charlotte, NC

Good evening Eve .. great post and you did your homework.  I have never had to deal with this issue but good to know.  Thank you!

Nov 10, 2014 07:45 AM #4
MaryBeth Mills Muldowney
TradeWinds Realty Group LLC - Braintree, MA
Massachusetts Broker Owner

Interesting - here in Massachusetts I found these two questions permitted to be asked:

  How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

A:        Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you are allowed to ask (1) if it is a service animal required because of a disability, or (2) what tasks the animal performs.  You cannot ask for documentation or certification that it is a service animal.

Nov 24, 2014 12:34 PM #5
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Mike & Eve Alexander so glad I don't do rentals, and we have had some legal problems in Denver with this exact scenario.    

Nov 25, 2014 10:28 AM #6
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Eve and Orlando, I'm thinking I need to get Willie the Labradoodle some fake paperes so I can move into any condo I want to.  Of course, he would give himself away the first time he hopped on an elevator and tried to hump some more guy's leg!

Nov 25, 2014 10:31 PM #7
Susan Haughton
Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545 - Alexandria, VA
Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results.

Did not know about the availability of "service" animal paraphernalia. Very interesting!


Dec 08, 2014 11:44 AM #8
Barbara Altieri
Kinard Realty Group - RealtyQuest Team, Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate - Shelton, CT
REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale

Hmmm.... Mike and Eve. Very enlightening post as I just had a question come up about this.   I am bookmarking for future use. Thank you.

Jan 03, 2015 10:51 AM #9
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

I had one call a while ago demanding that I allow her service dog, but her application never got that far since she also had an eviction on her record.

Sep 03, 2015 10:53 AM #10
1~Judi Barrett
Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745 - Idabel, OK
BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK

This is a very important blog with very important information.  I have sat through more than one class on this.  Re-blogging.  Thank you.

Oct 09, 2015 10:51 AM #11
Lisa Von Domek
Lisa Von Domek Team - Dallas, TX
....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless!

Hello Mike and Eve,

Great information for landlords as I am sure many are not aware of service dog rules.

Oct 09, 2015 12:33 PM #12
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

This is great information for those who handle rentals.

Oct 10, 2015 12:17 AM #13
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

Thank you for the great post. I will share this with others. 

Nov 15, 2015 08:16 PM #14
Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®
Vision Quest Realty - Lewisburg, WV
Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate

Saw this reblogged on Roy Kelly's post. Thanks for the information on service dogs and rentals.

Nov 16, 2015 01:35 AM #15
Mary Bergquist

Still looking to this article for guidance. THANK YOU again for a great post.

Aug 11, 2016 12:33 AM #16
Fred Griffin, on leave of absence from ActiveRain
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

Coming to you from your recent answer on the question board.

Since you posted this, things have only gotten more complicated.  

Aug 01, 2017 02:00 PM #17
Doug Dawes
Keller Williams Realty - Topsfield, MA - Georgetown, MA
Your Personal Realtor®

Hi Mike & Eve Alexander 

Thank you for posting this blog post link to your answer on the Q&A Board. 

I was surprised that we cannot ask for documentation from a doctor or on the animal.

Here's what I found at the Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR)

Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.


Aug 02, 2017 05:30 AM #18
Eve Alexander
Buyers Broker of Florida - Orlando, FL
Exclusively Representing ONLY Orlando Home Buyers

Doug Dawes Your comment is correct and a perfect description on what a service dog is intended for.

Until some authority polices this, fakes will continue...just like in real estate.



Aug 02, 2017 07:45 AM #19
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