Service Animals: Everything Landlords Need to Know in Fort Collins, Colorado

Service Animals: Everything Landlords Need to Know in Fort Collins, Colorado

Fort Collins, Colorado is a city with a growing population, and as more people move in, it becomes increasingly important for landlords to understand their responsibilities when it comes to service animals. Service animals play a crucial role in the lives of those with disabilities, providing them with the support they need to live independently.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about service animals as a landlord in Fort Collins. Let’s dive in!

What is Considered a Service Animal Versus a Pet?

One of the first things landlords should understand is the distinction between a service animal and a pet. A service animal is specifically trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a person’s disability, like alerting their owner to sounds or guiding those with vision impairments. A pet, on the other hand, is primarily for companionship and does not possess the specialized training or skills that a service animal does.

Service animals play a crucial role in the lives of those with disabilities. They are not just pets; they are highly trained companions that provide invaluable assistance to their owners. These animals undergo extensive training to learn how to perform specific tasks that help their owners navigate their daily lives with greater independence and confidence.

For people with visual impairments, guide dogs are a common type of service animal. These dogs are trained to assist their owners in navigating obstacles, avoiding hazards, and crossing streets safely. With their keen senses and advanced training, guide dogs become the eyes of their visually impaired owners, enabling them to move around with greater ease and freedom.

Another type of service animal is a hearing dog. These remarkable canines are trained to alert their owners to important sounds, such as a doorbell, a ringing phone, or a smoke alarm. By providing this auditory assistance, hearing dogs help those with hearing impairments stay connected to their environment and ensure their safety.

While dogs are the most common type of service animal, other animals such as miniature horses, cats, and birds can also be trained to perform specific tasks that assist people with disabilities. The type of animal chosen as a service animal depends on the person’s needs, preferences, and the nature of their disability.

Can a Landlord Refuse a Service Animal?

In most cases, landlords cannot deny a service animal. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) provides protection for people with disabilities, allowing them to have service animals in rental properties, even if the property has a "no pets" policy. This means that as a landlord in Fort Collins, you generally cannot deny someone the right to live in your rental property solely because they have a service animal. And, your resident screening practices must be fair and equitable.

However, there are some exceptions. While landlords cannot refuse a service animal based on its status, some requirements must be met. The service animal must be under control and not pose a direct threat to the safety or health of others. Additionally, the animal's presence must not cause undue financial burden or fundamentally alter the nature of the landlord's housing business.

What Documentation is Needed for a Service Animal?

In Fort Collins, landlords have the right to ask for documentation regarding the need for a service animal. However, it is crucial to handle this request carefully to avoid violating the resident's rights. Landlords should generally request reliable documentation from a healthcare professional that verifies the person’s disability and the necessity of a service animal to assist with specific tasks.

How Should Residents Submit Documentation for a Service Animal?

To ensure a smooth process, landlords can establish clear guidelines for residents to submit documentation for their service animals. Providing residents with a designated form or requesting that they outline the nature of their disability and the tasks the service animal is trained to perform can help streamline the process. It is also beneficial to communicate any additional requirements or forms of documentation that may be needed.

When Can a Service Animal be Added to a Lease?

While the general rule is that a service animal can be added to a lease at any time, it is advisable to define specific procedures and timelines to ensure a smooth transition. This can include having the resident notify you in writing before they bring the service animal into the rental property, allowing time for any additional documentation to be submitted, and discussing any necessary accommodations with the resident.

Final Thoughts

As a landlord in Fort Collins, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the laws and requirements surrounding service animals. Understanding the difference between a service animal and a pet is the first step in providing equal access to housing opportunities for people with disabilities. While landlords generally cannot deny a service animal, there are some exceptions, such as the animal posing a threat or causing a significant financial burden. Working closely with residents to establish clear processes for documentation submission and lease amendments can help maintain a harmonious living environment for all residents.

Looking for a Fort Collins property management company to assist with all the above? Contact our local team today!