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Your Rights as a Renter with a Service Animal

Disabled Richmond Renter in Wheelchair with Service DogIf you are a Richmond renter and possess a service or emotional support animal, it is critical to determine your rights. Several renters are not aware that they can keep a service or emotional support animal in their rental homes, no matter the property owner’s rules. This blog post will address the laws that protect renters who have service or emotional support animals. We will also offer tips on communicating with your property owner if there is an issue with keeping your service or emotional support animal in your home.

What is a service or emotional support animal, and what rights do you have under the law?

Service animals are defined as animals trained to perform tasks for persons with disabilities. These responsibilities can include but are not limited to guiding people who are blind, notifying people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, informing and caring for a person who is having a seizure, or comforting a person with post-traumatic stress disorder.

An emotional support animal doesn’t have to be trained to perform a specific service to provide benefits to its owners. Several companion animals can qualify as emotional support animals as long as you have a letter from your medical provider or therapist that says you need the animal.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are authorized in public places, including rental homes. Emotional support animals are not protected under the ADA but are allowed in rental homes, even if a landlord has a “no pet” policy. Service and emotional support animals are not considered pets under the law, and therefore, property owners cannot charge pet fees or deposits for them.

How to handle deposits, fees, and other costs associated with having a service or emotional support animal.

If you own a service or emotional support animal, you are not required to pay any pet fees or deposits. However, you may be responsible for damages caused by your animal. For example, if your animal chews on furniture or urinates on the flooring, or if you neglect to clean up the animal’s waste, you will likely be charged for those repairs. It is important to have a conversation with your property owner about your service or emotional support animal before signing a lease. This will help minimize misunderstandings about your rights and responsibilities as a renter.

Other landlords may demand that you show proof of insurance for your service or emotional support animal. This is not obligated by law, but it is something you should be prepared to tackle with your Richmond property manager.

What to do if your landlord tries to evict you for having a service or emotional support animal.

Suppose your landlord attempts to evict you (or refuses to rent to you) for having a service or emotional support animal. For that reason, you may have grounds to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which bans discrimination in housing based on disability.

You can also file a complaint with your state’s attorney general’s office or the human rights commission. These agencies can review your complaint and take legal action against your landlord if they determine that you have been discriminated against.

If you encounter eviction due to your service or emotional support animal, it is vital to seek legal help promptly. An experienced attorney can help you understand your rights and options under the law.

Resources for further information on renters’ rights and service or emotional support animals.

For more information on your rights as a renter, you can communicate with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD enforces the Fair Housing Act and can investigate complaints of discrimination in housing.

You can also get more information on service and emotional support animals at the ADA National Network website. The ADA National Network is a resource for information and technical emotional support on the Americans with Disabilities Act.


You and your service or emotional support animal can live happily in your rental home by recognizing your privileges. But if your landlord is getting in the way of your rights, it might be time to move to a place managed by professionals who appreciate and follow the law. Browse our listings for service animal-friendly rental homes in your area.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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