The California Apartment Association’s Landlord Helpline frequently fields questions about tenants who are seeking exceptions to a “no pets” rule. California and federal fair housing laws require landlords to make reasonable accommodations for disabled tenants. The most common requested accommodation is to have an emotional support animal as an exception to a “no pets” rule.   Some of the most common questions on this topic appear below.

When is the tenant or applicant required to make the request for a reasonable accommodation?

An applicant or tenant may request a reasonable accommodation at any time.  Requests for support animals are often made as part of the application process, during the tenancy, and after service of a three-day notice or unlawful detainer action to enforce a “no pet” rule.

What type of verification or prescription can I require to support the tenant’s request?

A landlord may request verification that the person requesting the reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification does, in fact, have a disability and/or has a disability-related need for the requested accommodation or modification. However, this verification can only be required when the person’s disability and/or disability-related need is not already known or apparent to the landlord.

Landlords often want to require a “doctor’s note” as the only form of verification that will be accepted. The law, however, provides much more flexibility in what is considered reliable verification that the landlord must accept. The verification can be provided by any reliable third party in a position to know about the individual’s disability or the disability-related need for the requested accommodation, including, but not limited to, a medical professional, health care provider, person from a peer support group, non-medical service agency representative, or a family member who cares for the individual.

Can I charge a fee or additional deposit, or require pet insurance for a support animal?

An individual with a support animal may not be required to pay a pet fee or additional security deposit, or to obtain liability insurance, in connection with the assistance animal. However, an individual with an assistance animal, like any other resident, may be required to cover the costs of repairs for damage the animal causes to the premises, excluding ordinary wear and tear.

Can I limit the tenant to one support animal?

A tenant may request more than one support animal. If more than one animal is necessary, then it may be a reasonable accommodation to allow more than one animal. A landlord may not have hard-and-fast rules about how many animals are allowed. As with any other accommodation, in cases where the disability and/or disability-related need for the requested accommodation are not known or apparent, the landlord may request from the verifier a description of the needed accommodation (specifying multiple animals if necessary) and information that shows the relationship between the person’s disability and/or the need for the requested accommodation of multiple animals.