What Every Landlord Should Know about Assistance Animals

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assistance animalsLet’s face it. Some feel the concept of assistance animals has just gone too far.  In fact, just a year ago, United Airlines took steps in limiting the use of emotional support animals when a passenger attempted to bring a peacock on board a flight. Meanwhile, New Jersey landlords often need some guidance when it comes to their acceptance or rejection of assistance animals.

The New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) is a valuable resource when it comes to understanding landlord obligations. As you most likely know, the law prohibits  landlords from refusing to lease or rent their premises for a number of reasons . Among them, includes the rejection of a tenant because of his or her disability.

Take that a step forward. Some disabled individuals benefit from assistance animals. The latter is a generic term that may be broken down as follows:

  • Service Animals: Many readily recognize seeing eye dogs as service animals. However, some service dogs assist the hearing impaired, as well as help those with seizure disorders. Additionally guide dogs train to perform such tasks as pushing wheelchairs.
  • Emotional Support Animals: Emotional support animals fall into the category of  comfort animals or companionship animals. They do not necessarily possess the same training skills as service animals. Instead, they supply psychological support to those suffering from mental health issues.
  • Therapy Animals: Therapy animals generally visit nursing homes or hospitals to visit residents on a temporary basis.

When it comes to service animals and emotional support animals, many think of dogs. While this is true, the Americans with Disabilities Act says that miniature horses legitimately assume these roles – when practical.

Pet Policies and Assistance Animals

As a landlord, you might look for a way to circumvent allowing assistance animals into your rental property. You should know that inserting a “No Pet Policy” into your lease agreement won’t work in this case.

There’s more. You cannot charge extra rent for a tenant who needs a service or emotional support animal. However, that’s not to say that you are not entitled to expect payment for any damage done to your premises. As far as emotional support animals, you may also put special conditions in place. These must be reasonable such as an expectation that the animal will be supervised and not permitted to roam without a leash.

Landlord’s Failure to Comply with the Law

When a landlord’s fails to allow an assistance animal to live with a tenant, legal ramifications may ensue. The tenant may accuse the landlord of discrimination based on disability. This invokes the need to defend charges filed with the Division of Civil Rights. Administrative complaints of this nature must be filed within 180 days. If allegations are proven after an investigation, appropriate remedies will be assigned.

Meanwhile, the tenant also has the right to file a lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey. The statute of limitations for this type of action is two years from the alleged act of discrimination. A finding against the landlord could result in a money award. The law also has a provision for punitive damages, which essentially represents punishment in the form of payment to the tenant.

Contact Us

Whether you or a tenant or a landlord, you need to understand that assistance animals are not considered pets under New Jersey laws. Contact the Law Offices of Lawrence M. Centanni if this becomes an issue with your rental property.

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