Learn About Guide Dogs in Housing

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) covers virtually all types of housing, including privately­ owned housing and federally assisted housing, with a few limited exceptions. Certain types of housing will also be subject to the service animal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the reasonable accommodation provisions of Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act.  These entities include, but are not limited to, public housing agencies and some places of public accommodation, such as rental offices, shelters, residential homes, some types of multifamily housing, housing at places of education, and assisted living facilities. Some state laws may offer additional protections for individuals with service animals or service animals in training.

Under the reasonable accommodation provisions of The Fair Housing Act, providers are required, upon request, to make an exception to a “no pets” rule and cannot apply pet-related restrictions or conditions on a service animal. This means that restrictions on breed, size, weight and the number of animals per household cannot be applied to service animals. Likewise, service animals are allowed in all public and common areas such as dining facilities, laundry rooms, swimming pools and clubhouses. 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 asked to pay for damages if it is the housing provider’s policy to ask for compensation from non-disabled residents.

Under the FHA, tenants, applicants and or visitors with service animals must request a “reasonable accommodation” in situations where a provider has a “No Pets” policy. However, providers may not request 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, persons 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.

Tenants with service animals 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 tenant to locate the most appropriate area on the premises where the dog can be relieved.  

Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] or file their own lawsuit in federal or state court.