Tips for Understanding Service Animals for Property Managers
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Tips for Understanding Service Animals for Property Managers

Property Management

As a property manager, you should have a thorough understanding of service animals and their rights to ensure compliance with the law and provide appropriate accommodations for tenants with disabilities. Now, you may have questions like “Are service animals at apartments allowed?” or “How to care for service animals?” Read on to learn valuable tips and insights.

Learning About Service Animals

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal refers to any dog that is individually trained to perform tasks or work for the benefit of a person with a disability. The tasks that service animals perform are directly related to the person’s disability, aiming to alleviate limitations and assist in their daily activities.

While guide dogs for individuals with visual impairments are commonly known as service animals, other types of service animals also provide vital support to individuals with various disabilities. These include the following.

  • Hearing dogs: They’re trained to assist individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing by alerting them to sounds such as alarms, doorbells, or approaching vehicles.
  • Mobility assistance dogs: They aid individuals with physical disabilities by retrieving objects, opening doors, or providing stability and balance support.
  • Autism support dogs: They’re trained to provide comfort, companionship, and assistance in managing sensory overload for individuals on the autism spectrum.
  • Medical alert dogs: They alert individuals with specific medical conditions, such as diabetes or epilepsy, regarding episodes or changes in their physiological state.

Are Service Animals at Apartments Allowed?

You might be wondering whether service animals are permitted at rental properties, including apartments. The answer is yes. According to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), individuals with disabilities have the right to keep service animals in rental properties, regardless of any no-pets policies that may be in place.


As a property manager, you are entitled to request verification of a service animal’s status, such as documentation from a healthcare professional or a reputable service animal organization. However, it is crucial to respect the privacy of tenants and refrain from seeking specific details about their disabilities.

The ADA strictly prohibits asking for detailed information about the disability itself. The focus should solely be on verifying that the animal is indeed a service animal necessary for the individual’s disability-related needs.

Moreover, you should keep any documentation or information obtained regarding the disability or the service animal confidential. Share them only with staff members who require such knowledge to provide necessary accommodations.

Breed and Size Restrictions

Property managers are not permitted to impose breed or size restrictions on service animals at rental properties. Unlike regular pets, service animals are granted specific legal protections under the ADA and the FHA.

While breed-specific restrictions are not allowed for service animals, there is an exception when it comes to animals that pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

If a particular service animal displays aggressive behavior or poses a significant risk, property managers may exclude that specific animal from the rental property. However, this decision should be based on a thorough assessment of the animal’s behavior, rather than a blanket ban on certain breeds.

Additional Fees and Deposits

You cannot charge additional fees or deposits based on the presence of a service animal. Service animals are not considered pets under the law, and charging extra fees would violate the rights of individuals with disabilities.

Damage and Liability

Similar to any other tenant, tenants with service animals are responsible for any damages caused by their animals. As a property manager or owner, you can enforce guidelines to ensure the proper care and maintenance of the rental property. This includes holding tenants accountable for any necessary repairs or cleaning resulting from their service animal’s actions.

How To Care for Service Animals

To help ensure the well-being of your tenants with disabilities and support their needs, you should be able to offer proper care for service animals at rental properties. This includes providing access to relief areas, installing waste disposal facilities, having an emergency preparedness plan, and prioritizing maintenance and repair.

Adequate Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Service animals, like any other animals, require regular exercise and mental stimulation to maintain their overall health and wellness. Designate areas on the property where service animals can safely engage in physical activities. Providing ample space for walks, play, and mental stimulation can contribute to the service animal’s happiness and performance of their duties.

Access to Relief Areas

You can assign accessible relief areas for service animals to comfortably relieve themselves. These areas should be conveniently located and easily accessible to ensure that service animals can meet their biological needs promptly. Regular maintenance and cleanliness of these areas are important to create a pleasant environment for all residents.

Waste Disposal Facilities

Install waste disposal stations equipped with bags and bins in convenient locations throughout the property. This helps ensure that service animal waste is properly disposed of, promoting cleanliness and hygiene. Regular monitoring and cleaning of these waste disposal facilities should also be part of the property management routine.

Emergency Preparedness

Include service animals in your emergency preparedness plans. Set protocols in case of an evacuation or emergency situation to protect the safety and well-being of both tenants and their service animals. This may include evacuation routes, designated areas for temporary shelter, and access to necessary resources like food, water, and medical care.

Maintenance and Repair Considerations

You might also want to establish standard guidelines related to property maintenance and cleanliness. Examples include repairing any damages caused by service animals promptly and efficiently, addressing any potential hazards on the property, and ensuring that common areas remain safe and accessible for both service animals and other residents.

With ExactEstate, you can handle property maintenance more effectively. You can easily create work orders and assign urgency statuses to make sure that the most crucial issues are addressed first. Since our system is mobile-friendly, your residents can submit and track work orders anywhere.

Collaboration With Tenants

Effective communication and collaboration with tenants who have service animals are key to understanding any specific requirements or concerns regarding service animals at rental properties. Openly talking to tenants with disabilities creates a supportive and accommodating environment for them.

With ExactEstate, your tenants can take advantage of the resident portal. From sending payments online and submitting work orders to receiving notifications, communicating concerns and requests has been made easier.

Staff Education

Staff members should be knowledgeable about the rights and responsibilities associated with service animals. Providing them with comprehensive education and training helps them address inquiries, concerns, or emergencies related to service animals effectively and with sensitivity. ExactEstate also offers staff training modules to keep them updated with property management trends and provide the best service possible.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to care for service animals helps create an environment where all your tenants feel valued and supported. With our innovative solutions at ExactEstate, you can streamline your property management processes, enhance communication with tenants, and ensure a seamless experience for individuals with disabilities and their service animals. Request a demo today to find out how our property management software can satisfy your tenants’ varying needs.

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