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Service Animals in California: Does the Law Allow Them in Rentals?

Service Animals in California: Does the Law Allow Them in Rentals?

There are over 500,000 service animals in use across the US.

As a landlord, you might have a potential tenant who needs a service animal as part of their daily lives. When it comes to service animals in California, there are laws that protect people who require their assistance.

Are service animals in rentals allowed? What laws come into effect when a tenant has a service animal?

Be sure you are up to date on the latest laws for support animals in rental units in California. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know as a landlord.

What Is a Service Animal?

Service animals are trained to support and assist individuals with physical and mental health disabilities. These animals go through training to perform tasks or alert people to potential danger. Some examples of allowed service animals in housing include:

  • Service dogs (trained to perform specific tasks for their owners)
  • Guide dogs (for the visually impaired)
  • Signal dogs (for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals)
  • Animals in training to assist people
  • Miniature horses trained in the same ways as service dogs

Is a Service Animal the Same as an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. They did not go through training to render specific care for a person. Instead, they provide comfort, companionship, and support for people with disabilities.

California Laws for Service Animals

Allowing pets in a rental unit is usually the landlord's decision. However, when it comes to service animals, the housing applicants and tenants have a right to keep the animal with them even if the landlord has a no-pets policy. The animal must be a dog or a miniature horse that has been trained and certified to do work related to the tenant's disability.

A landlord can legally ask two questions related to service animals.

  1. Is the animal required because of the tenant's disability?
  2. What task or work does the animal perform?

Does the Law Apply to Emotional Support Animals?

Under California law, both emotional support animals and service animals are considered "assistance animals", and both require the landlord to make reasonable accommodations for them.

However, there is a new emotional-support-animal law, effective January 1, 2022, that seeks to address the increasing misrepresentation of emotional support animals. An official Emotional Support Animal letter, prepared by a mental health professional, is required to prove to a landlord that a tenant requires an emotional support animal.

The mental health professional who signs the letter must:

  • Hold an active license and must provide a license number
  • Must specify their jurisdiction and type of professional license
  • Must have a professional relationship with the client at least 30 days prior to writing the letter
  • Must conduct a clinical evaluation of the client to assess their need for an emotional pet

It is a misdemeanor to misrepresent an emotional support animal as a service animal.

Landlord Accommodations for Service Animals in California

Landlords must make accommodations for service animals in California. The same laws apply to people with emotional support animals (with proper documentation). Your tenants with disabilities have the right to have a pet that benefits their well-being, safety, independence, and overall health.

At Advantage Property Management in Pleasanton, we advocate for the rights of landlords and specialize in managing every aspect of rental property ownership. Contact us today to find out more about our full range of property management services.