Service Dog Registration Of America

Do You Have to Pay a Pet Deposit for a Service Animal?


Finding an apartment is much easier with a service animal than with a regular pet. 

That’s because service animals are considered assistance animals that perform specific tasks or provide emotional support for their disabled owners. 

Their status protects service animals from pet deposits, and landlords can’t deny you housing—in most circumstances.

Learn your rights as a service animal owner, exceptions to the rule, and when, if ever, you’ll need to pay pet fees. 

Do I Have to Pay a Pet Deposit for Service Animals?

No, landlords and housing providers aren’t allowed to charge a pet deposit to owners of service animals. The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating based on any disability. Service animals are classified as assistance animals to help people with physical or mental health disabilities. 

This ruling states that it would be discriminatory and unfair to charge a person a deposit or fee due to their disability for having a service animal. A service dog is necessary for the owner to overcome physical and emotional challenges.

Service dogs can support their owners in many ways. For example, they may serve as guides for visually impaired people or provide emotional stability to those with mental health issues

In most circumstances, service animals are limited to dogs. Owners don’t need to pay a pet deposit for these animals. 

However, one exception to the rule is that miniature horses also can qualify as service animals. They don’t need to pay a pet deposit, but their size could exempt them from accommodations in housing. 

While you have rights under the FHA, it’s essential to provide your housing provider with a letter from your therapist or doctor stating you have a disability. The document can explain how the service animal helps you cope with or improve the symptoms of your disability. More importantly, it shows you have a genuine need for the animal and that it has trained to fulfill a specific task, unlike an emotional support animal.

When submitting your rental appliance at the new apartment, we recommend having your documentation ready for your landlord. Taking a proactive approach demonstrates that you’re willing to respect their policies as long as they don’t violate your human rights. Having an informed dialogue will go a long way in showing your property manager that you’ll be a great tenant. 

It’s also worth noting that the pet deposit clause doesn’t include other fees that landlords can charge. The landlord can still charge a security deposit and seek money from the tenant if there are any damages done to the home by the animal. 

Also, any nuisance issue that the animal causes can be grounds for removing the animal from the premises through legal proceedings. Owners are still held responsible for the action of their assistance animals. 

Can a Landlord Refuse a Service Dog?

No, landlords can’t refuse access when you have a certified service dog. They can’t charge a monthly pet fee or an initial pet deposit. They can’t discriminate against your pet by denying access based on its breed or weight. However, landlords can deny access if the animal has caused harm to others. 

Property managers can only legally refuse a service dog if they can prove that the pet would: 

  • Cause property damage 
  • Impose an undue administrative or financial burden 
  • Pose a threat to the safety and health of others 
  • Change the operations of the housing provider 

It’s also perfectly within a landlord's rights to mandate a written request from you for a service animal. They may require paperwork, especially if you’re renting an apartment that doesn’t allow pets.

As a service dog owner, you may need to obtain a letter from your vet confirming your pet is in good health and a letter from your medical practitioner validating that your service dog is medically warranty. 

Fortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with disabilities. If the landlord denied your request for reasonable accommodation, you could request that the government agency further investigate your case. You could have a case of the landlord discriminating against you and your assistance animal. Make sure to document everything and only communicate through email.

If you are the victim of discrimination for a housing-related matter, you can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and they will look into your claim. 

What Does the Federal Fair Housing Act Say? 

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that protects people with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination against tenants within their homes. Specifically, the FHA requires landlords to provide reasonable accommodation for assistance animals, including service animals. Even if the lease restricts pets, landlords still must allow them. 

Under the FHA and Section 504, the housing provider permits the service animal if: 

  • The tenant can prove their disability. 
  • Accommodating the service animal request wouldn’t place an undue burden on the landlord or alter the premises. 

If the landlord refuses to offer reasonable accommodation without valid exemption, they could be subject to suffer any consequences for discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. 

Emotional support animals are also afforded the same protections against pet deposits as service animals. An emotional support animal is a pet that offers companionship and well-being for a tenant with a diagnosed mental disability. 

What Are the Exceptions to the Rule? 

There are some exceptions to the Federal Fair Housing Act. The act covers all types of housing except: 

  • Single-family homes rented or sold by the owner without a broker 
  • Rental dwellings of four or fewer units, where the owner is occupying one unit 
  • Housing owned by religious organizations or private clubs that restrict occupancy to their members

Do your research before you begin searching for a place to live. And always ensure your landlord agrees upon signing a lease. 

Register Your Service Dog with SDRA Today!

With 500,000 service dogs in the US, service animals have become essential companions to help people with disabilities to overcome their daily challenges and live independently. 

Navigating the rental landscape can be difficult. It’s vital to learn about your rights to protect yourself from landlords or property managers who make misinformed decisions or try to discriminate against you for your disability. 

Fortunately, the laws and regulations in place will help you find a new place to live without discrimination. 

If you’re considering getting a service animal, Service Dog Registration of America (SDRA) helps you to register your pet as a service animal for free. We provide all the resources to help navigate life with service animals. 

Register your service dog with SDRA today!