Housing

People who work with guide dogs are protected by the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal law that makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in housing. The FHA covers most types of housing, including but not limited to privately-owned housing, federally subsidized housing, assisted living facilities, and housing in educational institutions. In addition, some State laws offer broader protections than the FHA for individuals with service animals and service animals in training.

Under the FHA, a person with a disability has the right to request a “reasonable accommodation.” A reasonable accommodation is an exception to a housing provider’s rules, practices, policies or services that is necessary for a person with a disability to have equal use and enjoyment of a dwelling. For example, a person who uses a guide dog can request that a housing provider make an exception to a “no pets” policy as a reasonable accommodation. This also means that the housing provider cannot apply restrictions on breed, size, weight or the number of animals per household to the guide dog.

Once a reasonable accommodation has been requested, providers cannot require documentation showing the disability or disability-related need for a service animal if the disability is readily apparent or already known to the provider. For example, people who are blind or have low vision may not be asked to provide documentation of their disability or their disability-related need for a guide dog. Likewise, no liability insurance or veterinary certificates can be required and no extra fees or additional security deposits can be charged. However, if a service animal causes damage to the unit or the common areas of the dwelling, the tenant may be required to pay for damages if it is the housing provider’s policy to ask for compensation from non-disabled residents.

A reasonable accommodation makes it possible for guide dog users to live with and work their dogs in all public and common areas of the premises. However, guide dog users must comply with state and local leash laws as well as rules concerning excessive noise and dog waste removal. Providers are encouraged to work directly with the guide dog user to locate the most appropriate area on the premises where the dog can be relieved. Ideally the designated spot should be easily accessible; well-lit for increased visibility and protection from criminal activity; and free from heavy litter and broken glass.

For more detailed information on these issues, refer to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s memo on service animals. People who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.