Being a landlord comes with many responsibilities – and you have to be aware of all of them if you want to stay on the right side of the law. For many California landlords, knowing which animals count as pets, service animals and emotional support animals can be confusing, so this guide explains your obligations under federal and California law.

Are You Legally Required to Allow Animals in Your Rental Property?

First things first: There are differences between pets, service animals and emotional support animals. You do not have to allow pets, but you do have to allow service animals and emotional support animals (unless the animal threatens the safety or property of others, and even then, only in some circumstances). You cannot turn down a tenant or evict someone for having a service animal or emotional support animal.

Animal Type Characteristics Security Deposit? Legally Required to Allow? Legally Permitted to Deny or Evict?
Pets or companion animals Any animal that lives as a member of a family or as an accessory to a family, ranging from small animals to large Yes. You may charge a security deposit for pets. No. You never have to allow pets in your rental property, regardless of type or size. You are also permitted to restrict the number, types and sizes of the pets you allow. Yes. You can deny renters permission to own a pet in your property, set restrictions on the number of pets, restrict breeds, and limit sizes. You can evict a person for getting a pet if your lease specifically says they may not own pets (or for violating other terms of the pet agreement, such as the number, breed or size of the pet).
Service animals Animals defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities; the tasks the dog performs must be directly related to the person’s disability No. You may not require applicants or residents to pay pet deposits for service animals. Yes. You are legally obligated to allow tenants who have service animals to rent your property, and you cannot deny a prospective tenant on the basis of having a service animal. No. You may not evict someone for getting a service animal. However, you may deny a request to keep a service dog as a reasonable accommodation if the animal poses a direct threat to other people’s health and safety or would cause substantial damage to other people’s property. If the threat or damage can be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, you must allow the animal.
Emotional support animals Animal companions that offer some type of benefit to an individual with some form of disability or need No. You may not require applicants or residents to pay a pet deposit for an emotional support animal. Yes. You are legally obligated to allow people with emotional support animals to rent your property, and you cannot deny a prospective tenant because they have an emotional support animal. No. You may not evict someone for getting an emotional support animal. You may deny a request to keep an emotional support animal as a reasonable accommodation if the animal poses a direct threat to other people’s health and safety or would cause substantial damage to other people’s property. If the threat or damage can be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, you must allow the animal.

Can Landlords Ask for Proof of Disability for Service Animals?

You are legally permitted to ask a person for documentation that states they need a service dog or support animal, or that the animal is “prescribed” to help them by a medical professional.

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