Can Landlords Ask For Proof of Service Dogs?

Service dogs are specially trained animals that assist people with disabilities, and they have been increasingly common in recent years. As a landlord, you may wonder whether you can ask for proof of a tenant’s service dog.

In this article, we will discuss the rules surrounding service dogs and what documentation landlords can legally request.

I will also provide background information regarding this question including what qualifies as a service dog, which questions are permissible and which are prohibited, and what happens if a tenant refuses to provide legitimate requests for proof.

If you have don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:

Landlords can ask for proof that a tenant’s dog is a service dog. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, landlords may ask whether the dog is needed because of a disability (unless it’s obvious) and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. They may not ask about the nature or extent of the disability or for documentation.

Ok – let’s get into it.

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only.  It is not legal advice.  You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.

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What is a service dog?

A service dog is a specially trained animal that provides assistance to someone with a disability.

Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks, such as guiding people with visual impairments, alerting people with hearing impairments, or assisting people with mobility impairments.

Service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners in public places, including rental properties.

Can a landlord ask for proof of a service dog?

Yes, landlords can ask for documentation to prove that a tenant has a service dog. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), landlords are allowed to ask whether the animal is required because of a disability and what specific tasks the animal has been trained to perform. Source

In most cases, landlords can also ask for documentation from a qualified medical professional that confirms the tenant’s disability and the need for a service dog.

What documentation can a landlord legally request?

Under the ADA, landlords can ask for two types of documentation: 1) verification that the tenant has a disability, and 2) documentation that the animal is trained to perform specific tasks related to the tenant’s disability.

Acceptable forms of documentation may include a letter from a licensed healthcare professional, stating that the tenant has a disability and that the animal provides specific assistance related to that disability.

Landlords cannot ask for additional information, such as the nature of the disability or the tenant’s medical records. They also cannot charge a fee or deposit for the service dog.

However, if the animal causes damage to the property or becomes a nuisance, the landlord may be able to take action, just as they would with any other pet.

It’s important to note that emotional support animals are not the same as service dogs.

While emotional support animals provide comfort and support to people with disabilities, they are not trained to perform specific tasks and do not have the same legal protections as service dogs.

What if the tenant cannot provide documentation?

If a tenant cannot provide proof to prove that they have a service dog, the landlord may be able to deny the request for accommodation.

However, landlords must be careful not to violate the tenant’s rights under the ADA or other disability laws. If a tenant believes that their rights have been violated, they may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or pursue legal action.

This can be a delicate and complex area, so you should research the law around this if you are unsure (or hire a lawyer to help you).

If you prefer to have a lawyer assist you, I would try JustAnswer. They boast access to thousands of highly-rated, verified real estate lawyers whom you can connect with via their unlimited chat service.

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Landlords can ask for proof of a tenant’s service dog, but they must do so in a way that complies with the ADA and other disability laws.

Landlords can legally ask for documentation that verifies the tenant’s disability and the animal’s training, but they cannot ask for additional information about the tenant’s disability or charge a fee or deposit for the animal.

By understanding the rules surrounding service dogs, landlords can provide reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities while protecting their property and rights.

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