Assistance Animals in Rental Houses

Author: Editorial Staff at Texas Association of Realtors

I own and lease six single-family houses and prohibit pets in all of them. A tenant who uses a guide dog applied to lease one of my houses. If I accept him as a qualified tenant, will I have to allow the animal on the property?

Yes. The Fair Housing Act requires property owners to allow tenants to have assistance animals, including emotional support animals, on the property. There is an exemption for single-family housing sold or rented without using a broker if the owner doesn’t own more than three single-family houses at one time, but that wouldn’t apply in this situation.

You are allowed to ask for certain information once the tenant has requested a reasonable accommodation for the assistance animal:

  • If the tenant’s disability is not readily apparent or known, you can ask for reliable documentation of a disability. This documentation may be from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional.
  • If the tenant’s disability is readily apparent or known, but the need to accommodate for the disability is not readily apparent or known, then you may request only information necessary to evaluate the need for the accommodation.
  • If the disability and the need to accommodate for the disability are both known, then you may not ask for any documentation.

Note that a property owner cannot require a tenant to pay a pet deposit or any other additional deposit as a condition for allowing an assistance animal in a rental property, but a tenant with an assistance animal will still be considered legally responsible for any damage caused by that animal.

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