Can I Have a Support Animal in My Apartment?

Can I Have a Support Animal in My Apartment?

During the pandemic, many people are looking to animals for support and companionship. You might wonder how your desire for animal companionship matches up with your status as a San Francisco renter.

Animals as Pets

If your animal is classified as a pet, your landlord has a right to prohibit you from having one if your lease contains a no-pets provision. This means that if you have a pet anyway, you can be evicted for violating your lease. However, the rules are different if your animal is not considered a pet and other conditions apply.

Service Animals and Support Animals

A service animal is one that has been trained to do tasks or work for the benefit of an individual with disabilities. For example, a seeing eye dog for the blind.

A support animal is an animal that assists people with psychological problems just by being there with them– unlike service animals who require special training and perform tasks for their guardians. Studies have shown the benefit of these animals to those that suffer from anxiety, depression, and other psychological afflictions that qualify as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Disabled Tenants

Under the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the ADA, if you’re a tenant with a disability, then a landlord can’t unreasonably deny you a support animal, emotional support animal, or a service animal. They also can’t evict you if you have one or require that you pay a pet rent or pet deposit for support or service animals.

Reasonable Accommodations

Because the law entitles those with disabilities to have a service or support animal in their home, landlords are usually required to make an exception to their no-pets policy for a disabled tenant. If you want a support or service animal, you should go through the process first before bringing the animal to your unit. You can obtain a prescription or a letter from a health care professional, such as a physician or therapist that shows that you’re disabled and explains the use of the animal as part of the treatment.

Next, you can request a “reasonable accommodation” from your landlord that you want a service or support animal. The landlord should honor your request, unless it causes an “undue financial or administrative burden” or it drastically changes the nature of the property.

Recovery of Damages

If you’re a disabled tenant who makes the request and are denied by your landlord, you can likely sue them for damages and attorney fees. Specifically, your damages could include the following:

  • Loss of a rent-controlled apartment or long-term lease
  • Emotional distress damages
  • Punitive damages of three times the actual damages

Get Legal Help with Support Animal Issues

If you’re disabled and need an animal to help with your treatment, make sure that your landlord abides by the law. If they are wrongfully refusing your accommodation, then turn to an experienced tenants’ rights attorney for help. Here at Wolford Wayne, we will investigate your situation fully and assist you with getting what you’re entitled to receive. Contact us today to learn more about your case.