Service Animals: Everything Landlords Need to Know in St. Louis, Missouri

Service Animals: Everything Landlords Need to Know in St. Louis, Missouri

As a landlord in St. Louis, Missouri, you should understand the rules and regulations surrounding service animals. These animals provide crucial support to people with disabilities, and it's important to know your rights and responsibilities in accommodating them.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about service animals in St. Louis. Let’s dive in!

What is Considered a Service Animal Versus a Pet?

Before we get to the specifics, we need to distinguish between a service animal and a pet. While pets provide companionship and emotional support, service animals are trained to perform specific tasks that assist people with disabilities, including guiding those with visual impairments, alerting those with hearing impairments to sounds, or retrieving objects for people with mobility issues.

Service animals are not considered pets under the law, and they are protected by federal and state regulations. These animals are not subject to pet-related policies and restrictions that apply to other residents' pets.

Service animals play a vital role in the lives of people with disabilities, and they undergo extensive training to develop the skills necessary to assist their handlers. These animals are carefully selected based on their temperament, intelligence, and physical abilities and they undergo rigorous training programs that can last for several months or years.

During their training, service animals learn a wide range of tasks tailored to the specific needs of their handlers. For people with visual impairments, guide dogs are trained to navigate obstacles, stop at curbs, and find specific locations. These dogs are taught to follow commands and make decisions to ensure the safety of their handlers.

Service animals for people with hearing impairments are trained to respond to specific sounds, such as doorbells, alarms, or a baby's cry, and alert their handlers by touching them or leading them to the source of the sound. These animals allow their owners to live more independently and safely.

For those with mobility issues, service animals are trained to retrieve objects, open doors, or assist with balance. These animals are incredibly strong and can be a tremendous help in performing daily tasks that would otherwise be challenging or impossible for their handlers.

However, not all animals can be considered service animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. However, in some cases, miniature horses can also be considered service animals if they are trained to perform specific tasks and meet certain criteria.

Service animals are not only highly trained but also go through regular health check-ups to ensure they are in optimal condition. Their well-being is of utmost importance to their handlers, and they receive proper veterinary care, including vaccinations, grooming, and exercise.

It's important to understand the distinction between service animals and pets. While pets can provide comfort and emotional support, service animals are working animals with specific tasks to perform. Interfering with a service animal's duties can have serious consequences for the handler's safety and well-being.

Can a Landlord Refuse a Service Animal?

According to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords cannot discriminate against people with disabilities who require a service animal, meaning you cannot refuse to rent to someone simply because they have a service animal. When it comes to accommodating service animals, your fair and equitable resident screening processes must be in tip-top shape.

However, there are certain circumstances in which you may be able to deny a service animal. For example, if the animal poses a direct threat to the safety or health of others, you may have the right to refuse accommodation. These cases are rare and require documentation and evidence to support your decision.

What Documentation is Needed for a Service Animal?

Landlords are allowed to ask for specific information regarding a service animal, including confirmation of the resident's disability and the need for the service animal. However, you cannot ask for detailed medical records or inquire about the nature of the disability.

While documentation is not always required, it can help provide clarity and protect both parties' rights. You should request documentation when there is ambiguity or concern about the legitimacy of the service animal.

How Should Residents Submit Documentation for a Service Animal?

If a resident wishes to submit documentation for their service animal, it's important to establish a clear process, like requiring them to submit it in writing, either by mail or email. Make sure you treat the resident's documentation confidentially and securely to protect their privacy. Once you receive the documentation, review it promptly. If you have any questions or concerns, speak with the resident about them.

When Can a Service Animal be Added to a Lease?

If a resident requires a service animal after signing the lease, you may wonder when and how the animal can be added to it. In this situation, it's important to work with the resident to make reasonable accommodations.

Consider drafting an addendum to the lease that specifies the addition of the service animal. This addendum should outline the responsibilities of the resident, such as proper care, maintenance, and liability associated with the animal.

Final Thoughts: Service Animals in St. Louis, Missouri

Understanding the laws and regulations surrounding service animals is crucial for landlords in St. Louis, Missouri. While you cannot refuse a service animal outright, there are specific circumstances in which you may be able to deny accommodation. By following proper procedures, engaging in open communication, and treating all residents fairly, you can ensure a harmonious living environment for all.

Looking for a St. Louis property management company to assist with all the above? Contact our local team today!