Laws around pets is a subject that landlords often ask us about. They want to know if they can limit the pets they allow, and the answer is yes. Pets are not a protected class, and you can decide not to allow pets or to restrict the size, number, and types of pets you’ll allow. You can allow certain breeds and restrict dangerous breeds. Often you can charge an additional pet deposit, a higher security deposit, or extra fees like pet rent. This will depend on your particular City’s laws, so definitely check them before you set your policy.

Seattle Property Management: Pets and Vacancy

Something to think about when you’re establishing a pet policy is statistics. According to the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), the number of tenants looking for rental properties, who have pets, ranges from 70 to 75 percent. So, if you say no to pets, you have a much smaller pool from which to draw to fill your vacancy. That may extend your time on market.

Redmond Property Management: HOA Rules

Also you’ll want to check with your HOA if you live in a condo, to see what the specific rules your building has. There may be a pet restriction or a certain limit on weight. Pets often can’t be bigger than 25 pounds. Your HOA might also limit how many pets are permitted in a residence. If your rental property is in the City of Seattle, there are more complex rules on the amount of security deposits and fees you can charge. So be careful with that and do your research.

Fair Housing and Americans with Disabilities

The other big exception is if you’re dealing with a prospective tenant who has a disability. Under the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disabled tenant can ask for a reasonable accommodation. That could be a service animal. A service animal is not considered a pet. If you do have a prospective tenant who asks for that accommodation, you have to allow the service animal regardless of your pet policy. You cannot charge an additional security deposit, pet rent, or any additional deposits. You have to treat it as any other reasonable accommodation.

If you’re faced with this issue, you can ask for some verification. If the disability is not readily apparent, you can ask for documentation on it. You can also ask about the tenant’s need for the accommodation. The tenant would then have to provide a letter from a doctor or a healthcare provider covering those questions. Healthcare provider as a term is pretty broad. People qualify as healthcare providers and it can be hard to tell if, in every case, they are qualified to diagnose a disability. But, that’s not up to the landlord. The law says if there is a letter from a doctor or healthcare provider, the requirement is met.

This area of the law can be complex. If you want more information, check the HUD compliance guidelines. They can help you with how this accommodation works and what you have to do. We can also talk to you about service animals and your rental property pet policy. We have dealt with this situation a number of times. So, if you have any questions about this or anything else about property management in Seattle, please contact us at SJA Property Management.