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As property managers we must educate ourselves and be aware of the many laws and circumstances that can affect our role. Navigating the many nuanced situations we could run into is a difficult and daunting task requiring diligence and understanding for both sides of a transaction. We represent the property owner, but also provide service to the tenant.
Service or assistance animals are a very delicate subject that must be handled with care. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines an assistance animal as, “An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. According to the ADA, “a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.” (Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA, 2015). Unfortunately, these guidelines are vague enough for individuals to take advantage. Additionally, the ADA does not allow for housing providers to verify a service animal past asking 2 specific qualifying questions, “(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work, or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.” An assistance animal is not a pet.” (Assistance Animals, 2022). For a property manager to effectively provide accommodations for assistance animals they must first understand the difference between assistance animals and a companion or pet.
Rent control is another area we may have to navigate. However, unlike service animals, these requirements are relatively cut and dry. The vagueness with rent control does not exist as is does in some other areas. We as property managers must make all parties aware of the challenges associated with rent control and the potential drawbacks. Not to mention the stifling of development and growth associated with continued rent controls.
As with marijuana use and growing, fortunately for property owners and managers, these individuals are not a protected class and may be discriminated against. However, there also comes the possibility of a tenant to require the use of medical marijuana which could pose a question to whether to allow the smoking of marijuana when you have a strict no smoking policy within the premises. As for commercial instances whereby a firm wants to conduct cannabis related business transactions owners and managers must weigh the potential issues that could arise with these still somewhat taboo operations.
Background checks are a necessary evil, especially in the residential rental market. Property owners and managers who rent have a responsibility to the neighbors to place quality tenants in their properties. While a favorable background check does not necessarily guarantee a quality tenant, it provides certain assurances that you are performing as a responsible agent in the tenant placement process. Unfortunately for tenants, low credit scores and criminal backgrounds are not a protected class. However, landlords and property managers must be diligent in looking at the whole picture of a tenant’s background. A tenant with a criminal background may have served their time many years ago and had a great rental history in the last 20+ years and turned their life around since.
As a landlord and property manager, it is important to have clearly defined criteria for selecting a tenant, which will help in the decision-making process and help to prevent you from making a discriminatory removal of a possible tenant. It is prudent for us to also communicate our defined selection criteria in order for potential clients to possibly self-remove themselves from the selection process.
Assistance Animals. (2022, June 21). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/assistance_animals
Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA. (2015, July). Retrieved from ADA.gov: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html