Can my landlord charge me a nonrefundable pet deposit or extra fee to keep my emotional support animal in my apartment?

Fair Housing: Extra fees or nonrefundable pet deposit.

Q. Can my landlord charge me a nonrefundable pet deposit or extra fee to keep my emotional support animal in my apartment?

If you have a medical or mental health professional’s written opinion that your emotional support animal makes it possible for you to perform the functions of daily living, your landlord cannot charge you a pet deposit or a monthly pet fee, according to a 2010 friend-of-the-court briefs filed by the U.S. Justice Department.

Your medical or mental health professional will write you a letter that could make the case that your disability makes it possible for you to participate in the daily activities of life — a reasonable accommodation to make up for your disability. Financial hurdles that could make it harder for you to have this accommodation amounts to discrimination, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

This assertion was made in a case involving a group of tenants in North Dakota who filed a class-action lawsuit against Goldmark Property Management Inc., which manages 10,000 apartment units in that state, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. The company in 2008 started asking cat owners to pay a $200 deposit and an extra $20 in rent; for dog owners, it was a $300 deposit and an extra $30 in rent.

Goldmark officials argued that while tenants with trained, seeing-eye dogs were exempt from the deposit, tenants with companion animals without specialty training were not exempt from the fee, and had to pay. But the U.S. Justice Department disagreed. Goldmark’s motion to have the case against the pet fees dismissed failed.

The need for these emotional support animals as necessary for people with disabilities to fully participate in society has been well-established, according to the brief.

“The FHA (Fair Housing Act) does not require that an animal have training to be accepted as a reasonable accommodation” to compensate for a disability, the brief says.

If the emotional support pet causes damage to the dwelling, however, reasonable accommodation rules do not keep the property management from recouping the cost of repairing the damage.

Landlord Deny Your ESA (Assistance Animal)?

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