St. Vrain Valley Voices: Laws outline accommodation of service, companion animals
By Susan Spaulding and Diane Groff
In light of your front-page story of Feb. 18 regarding a renter’s legal right to keep a service animal or a companion animal, even in a rental unit that does not allow pets, we hope this short summary is helpful for your readers.
Three federal laws give people the right to request assistance from an animal: the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These laws describe two types of assistance animals: service animals and companion animals. A person is entitled to the aid of an assistance animal after following a specific process for requesting a reasonable accommodation.
Places of public accommodation and housing have different standards for enforcement of disability law pertaining to assistance animals. The bottom line, however, is that the law requires places of public accommodation to allow patrons the use of service animals on their premises, and the law requires housing providers to allow tenants the use of both service and companion animals.
A person requesting an accommodation for their service or companion animal has to provide information on how assistance from that animal directly provides service or companionship relating to the person’s disability needs. Requests for accommodation should be made in writing, if possible.
A landlord also has rights. The landlord has the right to know if the tenant meets the definition of disabled as described under the Fair Housing laws, and if the accommodation necessary and reasonable. Also, importantly, a housing provider does not need to know the nature of the disability, but only the substantial limitation that the disability presents for the individual.
There are at least two excellent resources in the city of Longmont for assistance in understanding and navigating the process: the city of Longmont’s Community and Neighborhood Resources, at 303-651-8444, and the Center for People with Disabilities, Longmont office, at 303-772-3250. Feel free to contact either resource if you have any questions.
Further, the city sponsors the Longmont Landlord Training Alliance, a free training held every second Wednesday of the month at the Senior Center. The Landlord Training Alliance will hold a Fair Housing training at its July meeting, July 11, with attorney Phyllis Roestenberg.
Susan Spaulding is a community relations specialist with the city of Longmont. Diane Groff is the manager of the Longmont office of the Center for People with Disabilities.