How A No Pet Policy Can Be Discriminatory

The Grace Hill training tip of  focuses on the issue of how a no pet policy can be discriminatory when it involves potential tenants with disabilities.

By Ellen Clark

Landlord and property managers must make reasonable accommodations to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

An accommodation is a change in any rule, policy, procedure, or service if the changes are needed for a person with a disability to have equal opportunity to occupy and enjoy full use of their housing.

One of the most common accommodation requests people with disabilities make is to have an animal that would otherwise be restricted by a community’s rules.

No pet policy should specific an exception

Unless a no-pet policy specifies an exception for assistance animals, it may be considered discriminatory to residents with disabilities who might require an animal for assistance.

Consider this case: The owner of several apartment complexes and rental homes in San Jose sent a letter to residents stating that he did “not like to deal with pets of any kind” and that residents could not “introduce any new pet or replacement pet.”

In a civil complaint, The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) accused the property owner of discriminating against residents with disabilities. The property owner settled with DFEH for $100,000. As part of the settlement, the owner will undergo in-person training annually for three years and must develop a new reasonable accommodation policy. Interestingly, the owner must also provide semi-annual reports to DFEH about the number of requests for accommodation and the nature and outcome of those requests. Read more about the case here.

What can you do to avoid finding yourself in a similar situation?

    • Ensure that any no pet policy or prohibition against pets, whether verbal or in writing, makes a specific exception for assistance animals as reasonable accommodations for residents with disabilities.
    • Remember that assistance animals are not pets. Rather, they provide an important service to people with disabilities, and you must handle these accommodation requests in compliance with the law.


According to The Case for Fair Housing: 2017 Fair Housing Trends Report by the National Fair Housing Alliance, of all reported complaints of housing discrimination in 2016, nearly 55% involved discrimination against people with disabilities. That’s a staggering statistic. Make sure your no pet policy is not an issue.

Recent training tips you may have missed:

Assistance Animals Are Not Pets, Repeat, Assistance Animals Are Not Pets

Read Ellen’s full blog post here.

About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.