As a vacation rental host, you may wonder whether you are allowed to decline guests with service animals, emotional support animals, or pets. While there are laws and policies in place to protect the rights of people with disabilities, it can be confusing to navigate the rules and regulations around hosting animals in your Airbnb vacation rental.
A service animal is a trained animal, such as a dog, that is specifically trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability. These tasks include but are not limited to guiding individuals who are blind, alerting individuals who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting individuals with seizure disorders, or performing other duties directly related to a disability.
In the US, service animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and their handlers are allowed to bring them into public places such as restaurants, stores, and other public accommodations including short term rentals.
An emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal that provides comfort and support to individuals with a mental health disorder or certain phobias. Unlike service animals, they do not require any specific training and can be any type of animal such as cats, dogs, birds, and miniature horses. Individuals with an emotional support animal have certain housing and travel protections under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).
A pet is an animal kept primarily for companionship or enjoyment. Pets are not trained to perform any specific tasks and do not provide any particular service or support beyond companionship.
The legal provisions for service animals, emotional support animals, and pets in short-term rentals can vary depending on the specific state and local laws.
However, in general:
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are considered working animals and must be allowed to accompany their handlers in all areas of the rental property where guests are allowed. This includes short-term vacation rentals. The ADA defines a service animal as a dog (or in some cases, a miniature horse) that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords must make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, including allowing emotional support animals in rental properties. However, the legal applicability of this to short term rentals is a gray area and many hosts prefer to err on the side of caution. The applicability of the law is also dependent on relevant rules and regulations imposed by each state and local government.
Vacation rental hosts are free to decide if they want to accept guests with pets, what type of pets, what size of pets, and how many pets they allow in their property. They are also free to charge additional fees for pets.
Service animals are working animals and are not considered pets. As such, they are allowed to accompany their owners in all areas of the rental property where guests are allowed, including common areas and amenities.
Guests are not required to disclose the presence of a service animal before booking.
Hosts cannot charge additional fees or deposits for service animals. This includes additional cleaning fees.
Hosts cannot discriminate against guests with service animals which is prohibited by law. Hosts cannot deny accommodation to guests with service animals or treat them differently than other guests.
Hosts can ask only limited questions about the guest and their service animal. They can ask the guest whether the animal is required because of a disability and what tasks or work the animal has been trained to perform.
Hosts must make all reasonable accommodations for guests with service animals. This includes allowing the animal to stay in the rental property and providing any necessary assistance to the guest and their animal.
Hosts cannot require certification or documentation of the animal’s service animal status. In fact, there is no specific certification or registration process for service animals.
Hosts can deny accommodation to guests with service animals in rare instances. These include, if the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or if the guest requires a structural modification to the property, the host to take on added responsibilities that are time intensive or place a significant physical or financial burden on them, asks the host to violate local laws or HOA/building requirements.
A guest’s service animal cannot be out of control, not housebroken, or allowed into areas that are not allowed to the guest.
A service animal cannot be left alone at the property alone without the host’s approval.
A service animal is not allowed in a public space if it is not harnessed, leashed or tethered and not under the guest’s control.
Hosts can charge pet fees from a guest traveling with an emotional support animal unless their property is located in New York, California, or another location that prohibits it.
Hosts can decline a booking of a guest traveling with an emotional support animal unless their property is located in New York, California, or another location that prohibits it.
Hosts can ask only limited questions about the guest and their emotional support animal if their property is located in New York, California, or another location that prohibits it. They can ask the guest whether the animal is required because of a disability.
A guest’s emotional support animal cannot be out of control, not housebroken, or allowed into areas that are not allowed to the guest.
An emotional support animal cannot be left alone at the property alone without the host’s approval.
An emotional support animal is not allowed in a public space if it is not harnessed, leashed, or tethered and not under the guest’s control.