Saenger Group Emotional Support or Service Animals Policy

The Saenger Group and its landlord clients follow all Federal, State and Local rules and guidelines regarding service animals in rental properties. Our policy is based on the rules set out by the HUD document: “Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act”

A tenant may request accommodations for a service animal on any Maryland (MD) or District of Columbia (DC) rental property we list, given they follow the proper rules and guidelines issued by HUD (U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT). 

How the Saenger Group determines if you qualify with an Emotional Support Animal?

Please note, proper documentation is required in ALL cases. Specifically for Emotional Support Animals, a certificate from an online provider alone is not sufficient. It must be accompanied by a letter, on company letterhead (with full contact details including phone number, email, and physical address of the provider), and signed by a licensed health care professional – including one of the following:

  • Physician
  • Optometrist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist 

The letter must state the applicant’s condition but specific as to the individual with a disability and the assistance or therapeutic emotional support provided by the animal. A relationship or connection between the disability and the need for the assistance animal must be provided. All letters will be verified by our staff, or the landlord, as authentic by the service provider. The lack of such letter or documentation is reasonable grounds for denying a requested accommodation.

What if my documentation is not sufficient, and my accommodation is not granted, but I still want to rent the property?

If an accommodation is not granted, but there is a pet policy, the applicant can still sign a lease and take possession, but will be required to adhere to the pet policies set by the landlord and their agent. Depending on the landlord, these may include all or some of the following:

  1. Initial Pet Deposit/Security Deposit beyond the standard 1-Month Rent Security Deposit. This can range from an additional $500 – 1-Month rent as an additional refundable deposit.
  2. Monthly Pet Fee per animal
  3. Requirement to repair all damage to the property caused by the animal prior to end of the term of the lease (required regardless of animal’s status)
  4. Have property professionally treated with a flea and tick treatment (full house fog or bomb – required regardless of animal’s status)
  5. Have all carpets professionally shampooed and steam cleaned, and all hard surfaces professionally cleaned (required regardless of animal’s status)

Excerpts from HUD’s Reasonable Accommodations Document

What is a service animal? 

Under the ADA, “service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained, or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.”

It is readily apparent when the dog is observed: 

• guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision 

• pulling a wheelchair 

• providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability

Performing “work or tasks” means that the dog is trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. o If the individual identifies at least one action the dog is trained to take which is helpful to the disability other than emotional support, the dog should be considered a service animal and permitted in housing, including public and common use areas. Housing providers should not make further inquiries. o If no specific work or task is identified, the dog should not be considered a service animal but may be another type of animal for which a reasonable accommodation may be required. Emotional support, comfort, well-being, and companionship are not a specific work or task for purposes of analysis under the ADA.

Reasonable Accommodations

A reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces.

Documentation from the Internet 

Some websites sell certificates, registrations, and licensing documents for assistance animals to anyone who answers certain questions or participates in a short interview and pays a fee. Under the Fair Housing Act, a housing provider may request reliable documentation when an individual requesting a reasonable accommodation has a disability and disability-related need for an accommodation that are not obvious or otherwise known. In HUD’s experience, such documentation from the internet is not, by itself, sufficient to reliably establish that an individual has a non-observable disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal. By contrast, many legitimate, licensed health care professionals deliver services remotely, including over the internet. One reliable form of documentation is a note from a person’s health care professional that confirms a person’s disability and/or need for an animal when the provider has personal knowledge of the individual.

Information Confirming Disability-Related Need for an Assistance Animal. . . 

• Reasonably supporting information often consists of information from a licensed health care professional – e.g., physician, optometrist, psychiatrist, psychologist, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or nurse – general to the condition but specific as to the individual with a disability and the assistance or therapeutic emotional support provided by the animal. 

• A relationship or connection between the disability and the need for the assistance animal must be provided. This is particularly the case where the disability is non-observable, and/or the animal provides therapeutic emotional support. 

• For non-observable disabilities and animals that provide therapeutic emotional support, a housing provider may ask for information that is consistent with that identified in the Guidance on Documenting an Individual’s Need for Assistance Animals in Housing in order to conduct an individualized assessment of whether it must provide the accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. The lack of such documentation in many cases may be reasonable grounds for denying a requested accommodation.