Service Animals and Rentals

Real Estate Agent with Utah Homes 9334967-SA00

If you or your client has a rental property, and you have a "no pets" policy, you will want to make sure that you are aware of the HUD policy on Service animals and Assistance Animals for people with disabilities.

You can find the full document here:

Some of the things to know:

  1. An assistance animal is not a pet.
  2. The assistance animal is not requires to be trained or certified.
  3. The Department of Justice's (DOT) amendments to its regulations' for Titles II and III of the ADA limit the definition of "service animal” under the ADA to include only dogs, and further define "service animal" to exclude emotional support animals.
  4. Housing provider must consider the following:
    1. Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability?
    2. Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal?

There are quite a few ends an outs to how those two questions are answered. For instance, "A housing provider may not deny a reasonable accommodation request because he or she is uncertain whether or not the person seeking the accommodation has a disability or a disability related need for an assistance animal."

So, one will want to be aware of the rules before eliminating a renter from consideration.


Picture: courtesy of The Found Animals Foundation,

Comments (35)

Gloria Todor
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services - Newtown Square, PA
& Doug Durren (484) 431-3686 in SE PA

Chuck and Lucy, This is very important info for all of us to become aware of in our line of work.  Thank you for sharing.

Mar 30, 2018 08:04 AM
Chuck Willman

Gloria Todor - Fortunately real estate agents are required to take continuing education courses throughout our careers. This topic is an important one as I've discovered that many agents are inadequately aware of some to the stipulations governing pets and emotional support animals.

Mar 31, 2018 07:04 AM
Martin Kalisker
Greater Boston Association of REALTORS - Boston, MA
Professional Standards & Legal Assistant

Your article raises more questions than answers. A landlord and a real estate licensee is extremely limited in how they ask and what they ask for when dealing with persons with disabilities. Most of the time, you must take a tenant’s word that they require a service animal to accommodate a disability. Emotional support animals are only protected if the owner has a verified medical or psychological condition. Simply presenting an animal with a certificate from a $99 craigslist vendor does not qualify!

Also, did you know that most states consider those who train service animals for persons with disabilities to be protected under the law and reasonable accommodation must be afforded?

Brokerages who do not insist that only well-trained agents in rental practices and landlord/tenant laws service this line of business are setting themselves up for a visit by a HUD or State Commission Against Discrimation Investigator.

As a former broker/owner, and now on the other side where I witness complaints first-hand, I know that E&O insurers do not look favorably upon firms that violate fair housing laws.

Mar 30, 2018 12:38 PM
Chuck Willman

Martin Kalisker - Youre exactly right. The interpretation of the law is not for amateurs. As agents, should we enter the property managment field, we leave our clients vulnerable if we are unaware of the law, or unable to interpret the rules correctly.

Also, some locations may have additional rules that supplement this ruling.

Mar 31, 2018 06:50 AM
Stephanie De Hay
RE/MAX Masters Realty - Riverside, CA
Real Estate Agent serving all Riverside County

Extremely helpful post - thanks for sharing!

Mar 30, 2018 01:06 PM
Chuck Willman

Stephanie De Hay - Thanks! I realize that this post does not drill down into the details, but serves as reminder to all of us that we need to be aware of federal as well as local stipulations regarding ESAs.

Mar 31, 2018 07:06 AM
Paul McFadden
Responsive Pest Control - Seattle, WA
Pest Control, Seattle, WA.

Interesting. And thank you. Obviously this is needed. Thanks again!

Mar 30, 2018 01:36 PM
Chuck Willman

Paul McFadden - This can be a real eye-opener to the agent who works in property management but is unaware of this.

Mar 31, 2018 07:16 AM
Dan Tabit
Keller Williams Bellevue - Sammamish, WA

As a licensee, I like to be helpful to my clients, but at the same time this subject is anything but clear. I think I'd encourage a landlord to reveiw the subject materials and seek a legal opinion rather than rely on mine if they wanted to decline a potential tenant with this request.  

Mar 30, 2018 01:55 PM
Chuck Willman

Dan Tabit - I'm with you on this one. One company I worked with had their own supplemental paperwork that dealt with this issue. It served to educate the client. As agents, we can be vulnerable to the issues that go into a direction that can become liabilities. Just as we advise certain clients to seek advice of licensed financial and legal experts regarding certain matters- this can definitely fall under the "seeking competent legal advice" department.

Mar 31, 2018 07:15 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Lucy and Chuck - kmowledg is power. Even those who "do" rentals need to be aware of the basics. Good post

Mar 30, 2018 03:14 PM
Chuck Willman

Michael Jacobs - Yes. Knowledge is a good thing. I admit that quite a few years ago I was unaware of the nuances of this stipulation. Also, since local jurisdictions can have their own add-ons, it's important for all agents to become fully educated on this should they decide to specialize in rentals.

Mar 31, 2018 07:22 AM
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Anything ADA is confusing, a constantly moving target, and purposely made ambiguous. Attorney advise is always a priority.

Thanks for sharing about this important topic Chuck & Lucy Willman


Mar 30, 2018 03:15 PM
Chuck Willman

Bruce Kunz - I share those sentiments exactly!

Mar 31, 2018 07:23 AM
Chris Lima
Atlantic Shores Realty Expertise - Port St Lucie, FL
Local or Global-Allow me to open doors for you.

This is a great post.  Some agents unintentionally put themselves in harms way by trying to tactfully ask questions that are no-nos.  Let's leave the medical questions up to the doctors and if there are questions concerning the law seek council.

I can muddy the waters a bit more.  While showing a property the buyer insisted on bringing her support animal, Brutus into the house.  Brutus was a big boy and was acting as if he was the one that needed support, but that's neither here nor there.  The sellers' little boy is a severe asthmatic and I knew that Brutus jumping about the way he was, would cause an issue for the young boy when the sellers returned home. I had a decision to make and the thought of that little boy heading to the hospital because I disregarded the knowledge of the boy's medical condition, scared me far greater than offending Brutus' mom. I simply told her that the sellers do not allow animals in their house.  Thankfully, after some objection, she complied and we all lived happily ever after.  

Mar 30, 2018 04:09 PM
Martin Kalisker
The decision was not yours to make alone. Failure to accommodate a person with a disability is unlawful. You are lucky that the buyer didn’t file a fair housing complaint against you and your firm, as well as the sellers. You must comply with lawful instructions from your client. Even if the sellers had an objection, you should have consulted an attorney to cover your tracks.
Mar 30, 2018 06:34 PM
Chuck Willman

Chris Lima - Sometimes we are put into situations that feel like a "no-win" as there are two different parties with rights. Our local group has an attorney who will help give us advice on situations such as these. I was able to have a conversation with him in a case where I realized I was unaware of rights that a client may have that I didn't fully understand.

Mar 31, 2018 07:33 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good evening Chuck & Lucy Willman ,

Congratulations on a well deserved featured post.  It's very important for landlords to understand the ADA and seek legal help if necessary. This is exactly why I do not do rentals. I do what I do best List and sell and refer the rest!

Mar 30, 2018 04:18 PM
Chuck Willman

Dorie Dillard - I also leave property managment to the experts and don't actively work in the rental market.

Mar 31, 2018 07:36 AM
Ellen Caruso
Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty - Glen Head, NY

As a landlord and realtor I’d say there is 2 sides to this issue. First I think it’s too easy for people to get service dog designation and are abusing it! Two, no amount of security deposit can cover the damage of a reckless animal. The tenant and pet can move on but the landlord that continues to own is faces with some repairs not always easy to fix.

Mar 30, 2018 06:01 PM
Chuck Willman

Ellen Caruso - no doubt there are potential financial repercussions to the damage an animal (and human occupants) can do to a rental property. Yikes. Even so, a violation of this code can be costly to the landlord and/or agent. 

Before I worked with an agency that had a property management group I wasn't even aware of the rules. I'm glad I was able to read up on this topic and consult with our attorney on this one. It's a case where not knowing could be a liability.

Mar 31, 2018 07:45 AM
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

State and local laws regarding service animals override federal laws, so check with your state laws about the rules and regulations especially the rules and regulations about emotional support animals.  

Mar 30, 2018 10:10 PM
Chuck Willman

Good advice Kimo Jarrett ... local jurisdictions can have rules that can also impact us.

Mar 31, 2018 07:46 AM
Keith Lawrence
Christie's International - Mahwah, NJ

Good Topic.  Assitance Animal is a very sensitive issue.  Even if  the complex where you own has a no pet policy you still have to  allow the assistance animal.

Mar 31, 2018 06:24 AM
Chuck Willman

Keith Lawrence - One more thing for agents to be aware of.

Mar 31, 2018 07:52 AM
Jon Quist
Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996

A service animal IS NOT  a pet. I wonder how often this sort of uninformed discrimination occurs? Good post.

Mar 31, 2018 12:22 PM
Chuck Willman

Jon Quist - this is the major misunderstaning, in my opinion.

Apr 03, 2018 05:00 PM
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

There is a lot of abuse in service animals especially when they are considered emotional support. Our toy poodle flies with us an=d we just updated all the new requirements. There needs to be more strict guidelines.

Mar 31, 2018 01:07 PM
Chuck Willman

Joe Pryor I have the feeling we're not finished with this. By the way, Elyse Berman pointed out a couple other links to check out on this topic:  HUD pdf  and link

Apr 03, 2018 05:03 PM
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

I sold buyers a condo recently that did not allow pets. They were very peeved to discover that someone bought a unit with a service animal. I don't know the circumstances, but the assumption was that the animal was for emotional purposes and not a true service dog. 

Unfortunatley, the abuse of emotional support pets is clouding the issue.

Apr 01, 2018 03:46 PM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

This is the main reason I got out of the landlord business.  Abuse and I wasn't going to deal with it.

Apr 01, 2018 08:00 PM
Chuck Willman

Tammy Lankford, me too, for this and others, actually. I admire those who work in property management who have all these rules buttoned down.

Apr 03, 2018 04:59 PM
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

This is a touchy subject  that needs to be clearly understood to keep out of  trouble.


Apr 02, 2018 07:19 AM
Chuck Willman

John Wiley Elyse Berman also pointed out additional resources below.

Apr 03, 2018 04:58 PM
Elyse Berman, PA
Best Connections Realty, Inc. - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824 CRS, ABR, GRI,ePR

Chuck & Lucy Willman Excellent post on an important topic.  I recently took a class and they explained that we were to follow the rules at and the website.  

Apr 02, 2018 05:29 PM
Chuck Willman

Thanks Elyse Berman, PA here are those links for anyone interested HUD pdf  and link

Apr 03, 2018 04:57 PM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

Good distrinctions drawn and rules to followed with service animals vs pets.

Apr 08, 2018 04:43 AM
Anthony Kirlew
Group 46:10 Network @ eXp Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Helping You Make Fiscally Sound Choices

As agents, this is an important topic to understand as you are advising customers and clients. I recently took a CE class on service animals (because I love dogs mostly) but also because it's not something I deal with regularly. If you are interested in learning more, see if there is a similar course in your area.

Apr 08, 2018 08:35 AM