Service animals are a great benefit to those with a disability, providing intellectual, mental, sensory or physical support to help their owner navigate the world. However, learning how to accommodate service animals in housing, especially in “no pet” properties, and can be confusing.The laws reflected in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) relates to service animals in public places, including hotels.

Federal ADA regulations state that only specific types of animals such as dogs and miniature horses may be used as service animals. Under the ADA, owners of public accommodations are not required to allow emotional support animals, only service animals. In public circumstances where only trained service animals are allowed, such as a business, a person representing the business may only ask 2 questions.

  1. Is this a service animal?
  2. What type of service does this animal perform?

However, housing law, including rentals in condominiums and houses, is different. The Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Hawaii’s state law is broader.  Those laws provide for accommodations for “assistance animals” which include service animals, but can also include support animals, therapy animals, and comfort animals. ANY type of animal may qualify.

According to Hawaii Civil Rights Commission Executive Director William Hoshijo.  “Under both state and federal fair housing laws, a person with a disability has the right to request a reasonable accommodation that is not limited to the use of a service animal, but may more broadly request the use of an assistance animal that works, assists, provides emotional support, or performs tasks for a person with disability.”

In Hawaii when a prospective tenant asks for accommodation for a service animal, such as allowing an animal in a property with a “no pet” policy, they can be asked what service the animal performs. A tenant may also be asked to provide a medical certificate to accompany the service animal. If a medical certificate accompanies the animal, the landlord cannot discriminate against the applicant and cannot collect a pet deposit on the service animal.

Typically in an application process, such as when a tenant with a service animal applies for housing under Destination Maui Realty’s management, forms are provided to be completed and signed by a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional, stating the patient’s disability-related need for an assistance animal.

I advise our agents to look upon service and assistance animals as having the same rights in housing as humans. You cannot discriminate against them or their owner in any way if the housing request is accompanied by a medical certificate.

There are a growing number of working animals in the U.S., mostly comprised of dogs. The American Humane Society estimates there are at least 20,000 legitimate service dogs. In addition, there is a sharp rise in “emotional support animals.” At this time, there is no certification or official national registry of service or support animals.

On July 10, 2018, the Hawaii State Legislature passed Act 217 establishing a civil penalty for “fraudulently representing a dog as a service animal.” However, this new law in no way changes the provisions or protections for persons with disabilities utilizing service and assistance animals in housing.

Please contact us at Destination Maui Realty for more information on managing your property in relation to service animals