The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prevents discrimination against tenants in their homes.
Under the Fair Housing Act, a disability is defined as a mental or physical mental impairment which significantly limits a person’s major life activities. Even if a lease says "no pets allowed" or restricts pets, housing providers are required to make what is called a “reasonable accommodation.” A reasonable accommodation allows pets to serve as assistance animals (include animals who provide emotional support).
Assistance animals are not pets; therefore pet restrictions and fees do not apply. These are animals that perform a task, render services for the benefit of a disabled person, or provide emotional support that improves the symptoms of a disability.
Training and certification.
Assistance animals do not require training or certification, can assist in a wide variety of ways, and are not restricted by breed, size, or weight.
Typically, service animals are dogs, with the most common example being that of a guide dog. Service dogs have a right to all public accommodations.
Emotional support animals are typically cats or dogs, and unlike a service dog, they are not trained to perform a service.
Classified as an assistance animal by a medical doctor or licensed mental health care provider, these animals provide emotional and/or physical benefits by merely living or traveling with their handler.
What happens if a landlord refuses to accommodate?
Under federal law, landlords must comply with a reasonable accommodation request if the disability claim is true and if the request does not create a hardship on the landlord or other tenants.Those who have been denied their request for a reasonable accommodation have the right to request that a government agency investigate your claim.
You have several options for filing a complaint:
- You can file a discrimination complaint electronically with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- Many states have a government agency that investigates discrimination claims.
- You can also file a complaint directly with your state’s agency.
- You can use ESAD's DIY tools for complaint filing.
Housing covered by the Fair Housing Act.
All types of housing, including public housing, are covered by the FHA except:
- Rental dwellings of four or less units, where one unit is occupied by the owner;
- Single-family homes rented or sold by the owner without the use of a broker;
- Housing owned by religious organizations or private clubs that restrict occupancy in housing units to their members.