Generally landlords are not allowed to discriminate against those with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations must be made to allow those with disabilities to participate in activities available to the public. This includes access to housing. In the case of someone who requires the aid of a service animal (typically a service dog) to complete daily tasks, the reasonable accommodation is requiring that the animal be permitted even if the rental is not pet friendly. Service animals are specifically trained to perform tasks for their disabled individual. Some service animals may act as guides for the blind. They may also be trained to turn on lights for people with muscular dystrophy. They can be trained to recognize the symptoms of a seizure and ensure that their owner is safe during the episode. This is governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Emotional support animals are also permitted in non-pet buildings under the Fair Housing Act. Emotional support animals are different from service animals. Unlike service animals, they are not specifically trained to perform tasks for a disabled individual, but rather they provide general emotional support and companionship to one individual. Although a service animal is typically a dog, an emotional support animal could also be a cat, bird, lizard, goldfish, or any other animal, as long as a licensed mental health professional has recommended the animal’s presence as a means of supporting the owner. Unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not permitted to accompany their owners on airplanes, in restaurants, or other public accommodations, but they cannot be prohibited from housing.
Neither emotional support animals nor service animals are traditional pets in a rental situation. Landlords normally can charge an accommodation fee, additional rent or an additional security deposit for pets. However, these additional charges are prohibited by the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act for emotional support animals or service animals.