I am often asked what a landlord should do is a tenant wants to have a companion animal. The short answer is that the landlord needs to be very careful. After all, the landlord does not want to violate and be subject to the civil penalties of the Americans with Disability Act and the Fair Housing Act.

Typically, the lease prohibits the tenant from possessing pets in the rental property, but the tenant makes a request for reasonable accommodation, either through a letter from a doctor or other mental health professional or through a letter or note from the tenant. In the letter, the landlord is asked – as a reasonable accommodation – to allow the tenant to have a pet in the rental property, despite the prohibition on pets in the lease.

To make a request for a reasonable accommodation under the law, the tenant must:

1. Show that they have a disability;

2. Request a specific change in the rule; and

3. Explain how this change is necessary to accommodate the disability in order to make the housing accessible, to fully use the home, or to reduce the negative effects of the disability.

Homeline, The Landlord's Guide to Minnesota Law, p. 35, [publication date unavailable].

The landlord's duty to take action is not triggered unless and until the tenant submits a request for reasonable accommodation that meets the requirements of the law's criteria.  Id. however, I would generally encourage landlords to err on the side of caution and construe a request for a companion animal reasonably.

It is important, for purposes of determining whether a tenant has made a request for reasonable at accommodation, to differentiate between service animals and companion animals.  "Service animals are dogs or on other animals [that have been trained by a certified training agency and] meet certain certifications. A companion animal does not have to be certified and can be almost any type of animal."  Id.

Landlords have to be very cautious and make sure to follow the law when addressing a request for reasonable accommodation. I do not think that any landlord would want to be exposed to the potential liability that can come from violating the law and discriminating against a tenant.

Every landlord – tenant situation is unique, and I recommend that landlords talk to an attorney experienced in evictions and landlord tenant law before taking action based on this blog post.  To that end, I invite landlords to give me a call at 763-450-9494 to discuss their unique situation. The first thing I will ask you is what you want to have happen because, ultimately, the landlord is in control. I have represented many landlords, but typically do not represent tenants.

WARNING: The information contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Tim is licensed to practice law only in Minnesota, and the information contained in this blog post may not apply to jurisdictions outside of Minnesota.  Further, reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.

Applicants for social security benefits frequently ask if they should have an attorney represent them in the application and appeals process.  From my perspective, the short answer is yes, for two reasons.

First, you typically hire the attorney on a contingent-fee basis of 25% of past-due benefits, or $6,000.00, whichever is less.  That means that you don’t pay any money out-of-pocket, except for expenses, and that the attorney does not get paid unless you prevail.

Second, the law related to social security benefits is mind-numbingly complex, and you need an attorney to navigate the maze of laws, regulations, and cases that govern social security, apply the law to the facts of your case, put the facts most favorable to you forward, and zealously represent you in your application and at all stages of appeal.

Some people want to file the application for disability benefits on their own, and then hire an attorney for the appeal. However, I do not think this is a wise course of action. You probably have a better chance of getting disability benefits with an attorney on your side than on your ownIt is to your benefit to hire an attorney before you submit a disability application. Your application will probably be better because you have an attorney, and although there is no guarantee that you will receive disability benefits, your application stands a better chance with an attorney than without.

So, you really have nothing to lose by hiring an attorney to represent you.  Some people apparently believe that you should apply for social security benefits by yourself the first time, when you do the initial application, but then hire an attorney if your application is denied.  I have to disagree with this notion, because you’re better off with an attorney representing you from the beginning.  The ultimate attorney fee might be less, but I’d rather see you qualify for benefits sooner  After all, the focus is on you, not the attorney.

Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. represents applicants for social security benefits at all stages of the application and appeals process.  Please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an initial consultation to discuss your case and options.