Q. I manage a property with a no-pets policy and am in the process of leasing it. The landlord decided to lease to a hearing-impaired tenant who is requesting her dog, a pit bull, be allowed as her assistance animal. The owner of the property has a homeowners insurance policy that prohibits “vicious” breeds, including pit bulls. What can the landlord do?
A. Generally speaking, the landlord must grant a reasonable accommodation, unless an exception applies. An accommodation is unreasonable if it imposes an undue financial or administrative burden on a housing provider’s operations. According to a 2006 memo from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, if a housing provider’s insurance carrier would cancel the insurance policy, substantially increase the costs of the insurance policy, or adversely change the policy terms because of the presence of a certain breed of dog or a certain animal, HUD will find that this imposes an undue financial and administrative burden.
Therefore, it is possible that the landlord may be able to deny this request for the assistance animal if there is the existence of such a restriction in the owner’s insurance policy. This situation may be perceived as an undue financial or administrative burden if the insurance carrier would cancel, substantially increase the costs, or adversely change the terms of the insurance policy if the landlord allowed the pit bull to reside with the tenant. However, because the HUD investigator will research this if a complaint is filed, the landlord may want to ascertain whether comparable insurance is available without the restriction before denying the request.