Can a Landlord Charge a Pet Fee For a Service Animal?


The question of whether a landlord can charge a tenant a pet fee for a service dog is a complex and controversial one. While landlords may be allowed to charge a pet fee for ordinary pets, service animals are not considered pets under the law. Therefore, charging a pet fee for a service dog could be considered a violation of fair housing laws, which protect the rights of people with disabilities.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in housing. This law includes a provision that requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, including allowing them to have service animals in their homes. A service animal in Massachusetts is defined as a dog (or sometimes a miniature horse) that has been trained to perform specific tasks for a person with a disability. These tasks could include anything from guiding a blind person to alerting a person with diabetes to a dangerous drop in blood sugar.

Under the FHA, landlords are not allowed to charge extra fees or deposits for service animals. This means that even if a landlord has a policy of charging a pet fee for all tenants who have pets, they cannot charge a pet fee for a service dog. Landlords are also not allowed to limit the size or breed of a service dog, as long as the dog is trained to perform specific tasks for a person with a disability.

It's worth noting that the FHA applies to almost all types of housing, including apartments, condos, and single-family homes. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, if the landlord lives in the same building as the tenant and there are four or fewer units in the building, the FHA may not apply.


Service dog


It's also important to note that while the FHA prohibits landlords from charging a pet fee for service dogs, it doesn't require landlords to allow all types of animals in their rental units. For example, if a tenant with a disability has a service snake or a service spider, the landlord may be able to deny the request to keep those animals in the rental unit, as they could be considered a safety hazard to other tenants. However, this is a rare exception and most service animals are dogs.


Examples of Service Animal Tasks

Service animals are highly trained animals that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities. These animals perform a wide range of tasks that help their handlers to live more independently and safely. Here are some examples of service animal tasks:

  1. Guide dogs for the blind: These dogs are trained to lead their handlers around obstacles, cross streets safely, and navigate unfamiliar environments.
  2. Hearing dogs: These dogs are trained to alert their handlers to important sounds, such as doorbells, smoke alarms, and sirens.
  3. Mobility assistance dogs: These dogs are trained to help their handlers with physical tasks, such as opening doors, retrieving objects, and providing support while walking.
  4. Medical alert dogs: These dogs are trained to detect changes in their handler's body odor that may indicate an oncoming medical event, such as a seizure, low blood sugar, or a panic attack.
  5. Autism support dogs: These dogs are trained to provide emotional support and help their handlers with social interactions.
  6. Psychiatric service dogs: These dogs are trained to assist individuals with mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), by providing emotional support, alerting their handler to oncoming panic attacks or flashbacks, and providing a calming presence.
  7. Allergy detection dogs: These dogs are trained to detect the presence of allergens, such as peanuts or gluten, and alert their handlers to avoid them.

Service animals perform a wide range of tasks that are tailored to meet the specific needs of their handlers. These animals provide invaluable assistance to individuals with disabilities, enabling them to live more independent and fulfilling lives.





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