Couple and dog unpacking

The Simplified Guide to Securing Housing with Your Assistance Animal

Many disabled people want to rent apartments or homes with their Service Dogs, Service Dogs in Training, and/or Emotional Support Animals.  Disabled people who apply for housing who need reasonable accommodations have guidance in the form of FHEO 2013-01.

FHEO 2013-01 states that disabled people with a visible or documented need may live in non pet friendly residences with their assistance animals (SDs, SDITs, or ESAs) and may waive fees associated pets after making a reasonable accommodation request.  Additionally, because an assistance animal is not a pet, no pet fees or pet security deposit may be charged if a handler and assistance animal lives in a pet friendly residence if a reasonable accommodation request to waive pet fees and deposits is made. The handler is responsible for any damages that the assistance animal may cause. Some states offer additional protections in addition to FHEO 2013-01.  Be sure to check your state laws for those protections.

For your convenience, here is a simple guide to using FHEO-2013-01

Step 1 – Start Your Search

Search for a place to live. It must have four or more units or be listed with a broker.

Step 2 – Get a Letter if Needed

If your disability is not visible (guide dog or mobility), a letter from your health provider may be necessary. For an ESA, a letter from an MD, psychiatrist, social worker or other mental health provider is acceptable. The letter needs to establish that the handler has a disability and that the Assistance Animal provides disability related assistance or emotional support. See FHEO 2013-01.

Step 3 – Apply

Apply for the residence of your choice. You do not have to disclose your Service Dog, SDIT or ESA.

Step 4 – Sign

Sign the lease.

Step 5 – Reasonable Accommodation

Make a reasonable accommodation request. See the sample letter (p. 22).

You make a reasonable accommodation request verbally, by text, email or letter to have your assistance animal reside with you in your place of residence.  Your Assistance Animal is not a pet and does not count as a pet. You may also request to waive any and all pet fees, pet deposits and be exempted from required pet rules except waste disposal (because you do not have a pet).  You should request a response from management by a set date.

Step 6 – Receive a Response

Expect a positive response from your landlord. If you meet with resistance or receive a series of “we’re discussing it” responses, see 10.

Step 7 – Special Paperwork

If your landlord asks you to sign a medical release for information from your doctor, do NOT sign it.  If your landlord asks you to fill out pages of information about your SD and/or your disability do NOT fill them out. Your reasonable accommodation letter and MD letter were enough documentation. (See 10)

Step 8 – Size and Breed Requirements

If the landlord tells you that your service dog must meet certain size or breed requirements, those are for pets not service dogs. (See 10)

Step 9 – Denials

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly or denied access to a residence based on your disability or the fact that you requested a service dog, you have the ability to take action. (See 10)

Step 10 – Who to Contact for Help

If you have difficulty with your landlord, document the issue. Contact your local or regional HUD office. If you have difficulty with filing a complaint, you can get assistance from a regional ADA coordinator.

Hopefully, locating a new residence for you and your assistance animal will be a smooth process.  Happy Housewarming!

Lesley Nord
Lesley is a retired teacher. She currently volunteers with Sam, her Service Dog/Therapy Dog.