What Realtors® Should Know About Assistance Animals
Q. I am the listing agent for a residential rental property. My clients recently accepted a rental application and ratified a lease. In the application, the tenant disclosed that she did not have pets. The tenant took possession of the property and now is requesting permission for an assistance animal. Can we declare the tenant in breach of the lease since she stated she did not have pets in the rental application? What can I do?
A. The answer to this question assumes that the agent is also serving as a property manager.
A leasing agent’s duties to the landlord are complete at lease ratification, so further assistance would be provided through a property management agreement. When evaluating reasonable accommodation requests, it’s important for landlords to recognize that each case is unique. The fact that the tenant requested the accommodation after signing the lease is irrelevant. An assistance animal is not a pet and therefore the tenant did not misrepresent anything on the rental application. If the landlord has a policy restriction on animals, the landlord must entertain this request to avoid violating state and federal fair housing laws.
Sometimes, the disability-related need for an assistance animal is not readily apparent or known to the landlord. In those cases, Virginia law allows the landlord to evaluate the requester’s disability-related need for the animal (Va. Code § 36-96.3:1(B)). NVAR offers several forms to assist members as they navigate the process.
First, tenants requesting an accommodation should submit NVAR form K1378 (Request for Reasonable Accommodation). If the tenant’s disability and/or disability-related need for the service animal is not readily apparent, the landlord can also request that the tenant and a verifier complete NVAR form K1380 (Verification of Disability). After reviewing these forms, the landlord may respond by sending either NVAR form K1377 (Assistance Animal Denial Notice) or K1376 (Assistance Animal Approval Notice). There are few bright-line rules and each request requires an individualized, case-by-case analysis. If the disability related need for the assistance animal is verified, most accommodations are likely going to be reasonable. If the landlord approves the accommodation request, the parties will need to sign NVAR form K1375 (Assistance Animal Addendum) to complete the process.
By far, assistance animal accommodation requests are the number one property management related question we receive on the NVAR Legal Hotline. While it’s a complicated subject, NVAR forms are designed to protect tenants and help landlords avoid unlawful discrimination.
If you have any questions, contact the Legal Hotline at NVAR.com/LegalHotline.
Daniel B. Harris, Esq. is the NVAR staff attorney.
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