Pets & Service Animals

By on Nov 28, 2018 in News

Permitting animals on your property can help residents feel comforted, capable, and safe. Managing the quantity and purpose of those animals—pets and working animals–has become a hot topic in property management. These four tips may help to standardize and simplify animal management at your site.

Understanding the Laws

To best accommodate residents with disabilities and their working animals, achieve a basic understanding of the laws that are in place:

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) require housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) promotes accessibility in public spaces. Together, the three laws promote inclusion and safety for those living with disabilities.

Both FHA and Section 504 use the term “assistance animal” to describe working animals that provide aid for humans. The ADA refers to “service animals” with the same purpose. The three laws require that housing providers and the managers of public spaces welcome working animals and their owners.

Other details of the laws that are worth noting include:

-It doesn’t matter if a resident refers to an “assistance animal” or a “service animal.” FHA and Section 504 apply to all animals that assist or perform tasks for the wellbeing of a resident with disabilities.

-The laws do not limit the number of assistance animals or service animals a person may have. It is lawful for a person to have multiple pets, each to address a different therapeutic function.

-None of the laws require a specific certification or training for the working animal.

Required Documentation

Establish a documentation policy that’s fair for all prospects with service animals. Implement the policy for apparent and invisible disabilities.

The prospect may be asked to provide documentation regarding their need for a service animal or assistance animal. HUD entitles leasing staff to request documentation from a reputable third party who is familiar with the applicant’s condition.

Applying Designations for Pets and Working Animals

When documenting the animals within a unit, it may be helpful to differentiate between working animals and pets. Residents with service animals or assistance animals may require different accommodations than traditional pet owners.

For example, some communities have a limit on the number of pets within a home. A resident with disabilities reserves the right to have multiple animals that assist in different ways. May this resident also have a pet (non-working animal)? Establish a policy and apply it consistently.

Helpful Software

Business management software may help organize residents and their animal companions. Yardi client Bridge Property Management has customized the set-up of Orion Business Intelligence to keep track of animals on the premises.

Yardi product specialist Colin Roberson explains, “We have been able to track how many dogs are on each property, which units have pets. [Orion BI] is a nice thing that the property managers can have on their phone. If they are walking the property and seeing a pet in a unit, they can very quickly verify to see if we have a pet on record there.”

“It’s such a practical application,” Roberson continues. “I don’t know if others use it that way but I would say we use it in different ways to track things like that and improve operations.”