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.