Renters often face huge obstacles trying to find a landlord who will accept their beloved dog or cat. Unfortunately, people who own emotional support animals are too often subjected to the same strict rules by property owners who are unfamiliar with the law.
A fair housing case in San Jose shows the potential liability when the law is ignored. In that case, the owner of several apartment complexes and rental homes agreed to pay $100,000 to resolve a disability discrimination action involving emotional support animals.
The complaint reported that the apartment owner sent a letter to his residents stating he did “not like to deal with pets of any kind.” The letter contained no exceptions for assistance animals. Next, the defendant sent letters to the residents asserting that a flea problem existed, and his solution was to ensure all pets were gone. He also stated that his tenants had to send letters from a veterinarian certifying that their animals did not have fleas. He then sent eviction notices to several tenants with pets and evicted two tenants with emotional support animals.
In addition to the $100,000, the defendant agreed to undergo fair housing training, adopt policies for reviewing reasonable accommodation requests, and provide three years of semi-annual reports to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing detailing reasonable accommodation requests and the resolution of the requests. The settlement includes damages to the former residents as well as investigatory costs and attorney’s fees.
Your bottom line: Property owners cannot prohibit medically certified service or emotional support animals. If you feel like you are being discriminated against because of your emotional support animal, reach out to an experienced animal law attorney like myself, for advice on your rights and next steps.