There is a new and potentially discriminatory trend growing in the application process at the rental offices of many housing providers. The landlord and property managers are requiring prospective tenants and home seekers to bring their dog into the leasing office for a “pet interview.” This sounds like another inconvenience for the pet owning applicant, but it would most likely amount to a violation of the fair housing act if the Apartment complex, for example, required a disabled veteran home seeker to bring his service dog into the leasing office to be subjected to a very subjective pet interview.
Let’s get to the bottom line first- subjecting a disabled person and their assistance animal to an additional condition for the approval of housing would be discriminatory- in our strong opinion. The reason is simple- the Fair Housing Act already provides a way for a housing provider to vet a bona fide service animal and their disabled owner. The Act states that a housing provider can request documentation from a reliable source which would verify the person’s disability, and verify the disabled person’s disability-related need for the service animal- period.
A “pet interview” is just another mechanism which appears to have innocent intentions, and on its face the rule appears to be neutral and nondiscriminatory, but the result could/would have a discriminatory effect upon disabled persons who need their service animal or emotional support animal to enjoy the benefits of fair housing.
Landlords are usually found applying this new process to “pets” which violate their Breed restriction rule. For example, if a landlord didn’t want pit bull dogs on the property but a disabled applicant required the assistance of their pit bull service dog, the landlord would ‘grant’ the accommodation request provided the pit bull ‘passed’ their pet interview process.
By the way- Who is qualified to administer a “pet interview?” What do they do during a pet interview? Pull the ears? Tug on the tail? Is there a cost? There is no agreed-to pet interview process, probably because it leaves too much room to subjectivity.
If you, or someone you know, has a service animal or emotional support animal that is required to pass a pet interview, please reach Fair Housing Advocates at email@example.com If you believe you are being subjected to housing discrimination, please reach us to request our Fair Housing Discrimination Questionnaire.