The sum total of the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) (RA), and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (WSLAD) results in the very strict mandates which are intended to protect the human rights and the welfare of disabled tenants and those disabled individuals who want to be tenants.
Furthermore, these laws also infer that the disabled have as much of a right to enjoy their living accommodations just like able bodied persons do and thus special provision must be made. It is true that the four laws named here are applicable only within the borders of the United States of America, but it is also true that many other nations have adopted similar laws, as well.
All such laws demand that landlords made sure that their rental properties have reasonable accommodations available to any and all disabled persons who may already be living there, who may be submitting applications to be living there and/or who may be disabled visitors of people who are currently living there.Embedded within the definition of reasonable accommodations, is the fact that, among other things, service animals (regardless of their size or species) accompanying disabled persons are considered reasonable.
Landlords must know about service animals, but want exactly are they? They may look like pets but unlike ordinary pets, service animals are working animals that have been especially trained to provide assistance to disabled persons who cannot do for themselves or those who cannot reasonably function on their own.
Service animals are also trained to provide assistance in law enforcement as well as to aid in SAR (search and rescue) missions.Most service animals around the world are dogs of various breeds, but some are of a completely different species such as monkeys, cats, birds and even miniature horses. For uniformity, consistency and international awareness, all service animals of any species have been categorized as:
(a) Guide animals for the blind
(b) Hearing animals for the deaf and hearing impaired
(c) Service animals for providing assistance except to the blind or the hearing impaired
To stay within the laws pertaining to service animals, landlords must incorporate the mandatory modifications into their properties and the relevant apartment marketing plan. When advertising rentals, landlords must be ready and willing to receive potential tenants who need special provisions (if they are not already present) and allowances for their service animals.
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Since service animal are not considered to be pets, landlords whose rental property advertising their vacant apartments in newspapers or the many websites which provide such services, must be aware that their "no pet" policies (if they are in effect) do not apply to such cases.
The fact is that although these laws may seem to be annoying and burdensome to some landlords, they are necessary for the less fortunate sectors of our community. What's more, they are also beneficial to landlords as considering disabled renters with service animals increases the pool of available potential tenants to choose from. And since there are approximately ten million disabled adults in the United States alone, the pool of possible renters increases tremendously.
Landlords must know that tenants who require the companionship of service animals may actually be blessing in disguise.
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