What Do You Do When Assistance Animals Break The Rules?

Housing Authority Settles For $1 Million With Tenants Over Emotional Support Animals

“I didn’t know” is not an acceptable defense if you face a discrimination charge, so the Grace Hill training tip of the week focuses on assistance animals and rules for them in your apartments.

By Ellen Clark

An accommodation for an assistance animal that would otherwise be prohibited in an apartment complex is a common request property managers and landlords get.

Remember, while assistance animals are not pets, this does not mean they can run loose in your community.

Rules for assistance animals must apply to all animals on your property

Here are some rules and policies you can use for assistance animals.

    • Residents must pay for damages, beyond reasonable wear and tear, caused by the animal.
    • All animals must be vaccinated in accordance with state and local laws.
    • Residents must dispose of all waste and observe all leash rules.


Be sure to let tenants know that you make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities who need an assistance animal.

You may require leashes but a dog fetching an item for a person with a disability is ok

For example, you can require that animals be on a leash outdoors.

But you may need to make an accommodation for a resident with a disability who has a dog that fetches items for him.

In the event where an assistance animal is violating community rules, allow the resident to attempt to resolve the situation before taking steps to remove the animal.

What can you do if owners of assistance animals break the rules?

You can take action when residents with assistance animals violate community rules. However, proceed carefully and consult your legal counsel.

Give the resident opportunities to remedy the situation before taking steps to remove the animal.

Send written warnings recognizing that the animal is an assistance animal, and reminding the resident that they must follow reasonable rules of conduct.

If the situation continues, let the resident know that if the problem persists the animal may have to be removed and alternative accommodations will be explored.

Document disturbances or damage in writing and with photographs if possible. Phone or in-person conversations will not be as useful as written documentation if you find yourself in legal proceedings.


Remember community rules for assistance animals must apply to all animals in your community.


Recent Grace Hill training tips you may have missed:

7 Ways To Stay Out Of Trouble When Checking Criminal History

How To Handle Suspicious Documentation For Assistance Animals

How A No Pet Policy Can Be Discriminatory

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.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk.


What Do You Do When Assistance Animals Break The Rules?


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