(Dec. 14, 2018) The Maryland Association of Realtors provides a frequently asked questions legal hotline posting on its website at www.mdrealtor.org that provides realtors and the public very useful information relating to the real estate industry.

One of the topics it covers is service animals in rentals. The article says there are three important points to consider when renting to an individual with a disability who requires a service animal.

• Service animals, therapy animals, emotional support animals or animal aides all fall into the same category under federal law.

• Service, therapy, emotional support or assistance animals are not pets and therefore may not be considered as such. Landlords who have strict no-pet policies may not enforce them with regards to service animal. The landlord cannot charge a pet deposit.

• Assistance animals are covered under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehab Act.

The Maryland Realtors FAQ post further explains that under the Fair Housing Act, persons with disabilities who are accompanied by a service animal are a protected class.

To be an individual protected under the Fair Housing Act, that person must have a disability as defined by the act; the service animal must have a direct function related to the individual’s disability and the request to have the service animal must be reasonable.

A landlord is not usually allowed to inquire about specifics of an individual’s disability. However, if an individual makes a request for a reasonable accommodation, the law allows for a landlord to request reliable disability-related information that:

• is necessary to verify that the person meets the Act’s definition of disability (i.e., has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities),

• describes the needed accommodation, and

• shows the relationship between the person’s disability and the need for the requested accommodation

The Fair Housing Act does not require that a service animal be individually trained or certified. Dogs are the most common type of animal, but other types of animals would be allowed.

— Lauren Bunting is a licensed Associate Broker with Bunting Realty, Inc. in Berlin.

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