Service Animals: A Handbook for Roseville Property Managers - Article Banner

As professional Roseville property managers, we spend a lot of time helping rental property owners stay in compliance with federal, state, and local laws. There’s a lot to digest, and if you don’t have the time or the resources to stay up to date on all the requirements and regulations that apply to your rental property, it’s easy to make a costly mistake. 

We’ve covered a lot of ground with fair housing laws and the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Both those sets of laws include protections for tenants with service animals. 

What is a service animal, and how does it differ from a pet or even from a companion animal? 

We have some answers. 

What is a Service Animal?

According to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. 

Only dogs can be service animals. This was established in 2011. This means you should not have a tenant claiming that a horse or a snake or any other animal is a service animal. The designation only applies to dogs. 

Examples of the work or tasks that a service animal may accomplish for a person with a disability include:

  • Guiding people who are blind
  • Alerting people who are deaf
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Protecting a person who is having a seizure
  • Reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
  • Calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack

There are other duties a service animal may perform, depending on the person and the disability. 

Dogs and other animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under federal law. This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act. Assistance animals can serve different roles and may be an emotional support animal, companion animal, or therapy animal. 

How Are Service Animals Different from Pets?

service dogPets are not protected by any laws. You can decide not to allow pets in your property, and you don’t even have to provide a reason. Tenants have no protections when it comes to pets and while we believe that pet-friendly properties often rent faster and for more money, we respect your decision and your right not to allow pets if that’s what you choose. 

Service animals are different because the law does not see them as pets. The law sees them as accommodations, which tenants with disabilities are legally permitted to expect from their landlords. 

This means:

  • You must allow a service dog into your rental home even if you have a strict no-pets policy. 
  • You cannot disallow the breed of dog. A service animal is a service animal, whether it’s a golden retriever or a German shepherd. 
  • You cannot collect a pet fee or a pet deposit for a service animal.
  • You cannot charge pet rent for a service animal.

Tenants are still required to care for and clean up after their service animals. You can use the security deposit to deduct any damage that was done by service animals. 

Make sure you understand the difference between service animals and pets and why you must allow them in your rental property. 

If you’d like some help understanding service animals or any of the protections tenants receive from the fair housing laws and ADA, please contact us at Action Properties. We lease and manager homes in Roseville, Rocklin, Loomis, Lincoln, Granite Bay, and the surrounding areas.