Know Your Rights: Service animals & rental housing

Apartment building in Portland Oregon against a blue sky backdrop.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between service animals, companion animals, assistance animals, therapy animals, and emotional support animals? Which ones can I have at my home?

  • The terms service animal, assistance animal, emotional support animal, comfort animal, and therapy animal mean the same thing under the Fair Housing Act.
  • The Act bars housing discrimination on the basis of disability. That means that you can have one of these animals at home, but there are rules. The animal must give you assistance or emotional support related to your disability.
  • We will use “service animal” here.
  • Places of public accommodation and air travel have different rules. Please see our Service Animal Guide for more information.

Is my service animal the same as a pet?

  • No. Standard pet rules do not apply to service animals. Even if the landlord has a “no pets” rule, they must allow your service animal. They cannot charge a pet fee or deposit.

My landlord bans a certain breed. Can they deny my service animal?

  • No. They cannot deny your animal based on the breed, weight, or size.

Should my animal have a vest or certification from an website that sells them?

  • A service animal does not need ‘certification’ or vests, tags, or other accessories as ‘proof’ that it is a service animal.

I am planning to get or just got a service animal. What do I need to do?

  • You can write to your landlord that you need a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act to have a service animal that gives you assistance related to a disability.

My landlord doesn’t think my dog is a service animal and wants proof. Now what?

  • If your disability and your need for a service animal is obvious, you do not need to provide documentation.
  • For example, if you are blind and have a dog that helps you with mobility, you do not need to provide documentation.
  • If your disability or your need are not obvious, you can provide documentation from a medical professional that explains you have a disability and that the animal will give you disability-related assistance or emotional support. You do not have to give them extensive medical records, or extensive information or documentation.

My service animal caused damages by clawing at the wall. Do I have to pay for them from my security deposit?

  • Yes. As with any damages beyond normal wear-and-tear, as a tenant you are responsible for the unit.

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