Question: What kind of tenant rights does a landlord need to be aware of regarding a service or support animal?

Answer: Landlords are prohibited from discriminating against a disabled tenant who uses a service dog.

California landlords may not refuse to rent a unit to a tenant on the basis that they are disabled and use:

  • a guide dog, a seeing-eye dog trained by a licensed individual to aid a blind person;
  • a signal dog, trained to alert a deaf or hearing-impaired person to intruders or sounds; or
  • a service dog, trained to aid a physically disabled person by protection work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items. [Calif. Civil Code 54.1(b)(6)]

Disabled tenants with a specially-trained dog are required to keep the dog leashed and licensed by an identification tag issued by the county clerk, animal control department or other authorized agency. [CC §54.2(b)]

Landlords may not charge additional rent or security deposit to tenants with authorized service, guide or signal dogs. The tenant is liable for the cost to repair any damages the dog may cause on the property. [CC §54.2(a)]

Tenants with emotional support animals do not have the same level of rights as do tenants with service, guide and signal dogs in California.

However, under the Fair Housing Act, landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations to allow a tenant to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the unit. [42 United States Code §3604(f)(3)(B)]

A landlord may be required to make reasonable accommodation to allow a tenant an emotional support animal. For example, when a tenant is prescribed an emotional support animal by their doctor and the tenant’s lease explicitly states that pets may not be brought onto the property without the landlord’s prior consent, the landlord’s consent is considered a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Notice 09-14-0267-8]