In the United States, including Massachusetts, landlords cannot charge a pet deposit for a service animal. Service animals are protected by federal and state laws, and these regulations override any standard pet policies or fees that a landlord might typically impose.
Key Points to Consider:
- Service Animal Definition: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a service animal is defined as a dog or, in some cases, a miniature horse that is trained to perform tasks or provide assistance to individuals with disabilities. Emotional support animals are also covered by these laws.
- Exemptions for Service Animals: Service animals, including emotional support animals, are not considered pets. They are viewed as necessary accommodations for individuals with disabilities, and as such, they are exempt from typical pet-related fees or deposits.
- Reasonable Accommodation: Landlords are required to provide reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities. This includes allowing service animals in rental properties, even if the property has a “no pets” policy.
- Verification: Landlords can request verification or documentation to confirm that the animal is indeed a service animal. However, they cannot require detailed information about the individual’s disability or demand that the animal demonstrate specific tasks.
- Responsibility and Behavior: While service animals are exempt from pet-related fees, they are still expected to behave appropriately in rental properties. If a service animal causes damage or poses a threat to the safety or health of others, a landlord can take action, but this should not involve imposing pet-related fees.
Tenants with service animals should:
- Communicate with the Landlord: Inform the landlord of the presence of a service animal and provide any necessary documentation or verification.
- Know Their Rights: Be aware of their rights as individuals with disabilities under federal and state laws, including the ADA and the FHA.
- Ensure Proper Behavior: Ensure that the service animal is well-behaved in the rental property to maintain a positive relationship with the landlord and neighbors.
In summary, landlords cannot charge a pet deposit or pet-related fees for service animals, including emotional support animals, as they are considered necessary accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Federal and state laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and their service animals, ensuring that they have equal access to housing without facing financial burdens related to pet policies.