There are lots of rentals in Colorado that are pet friendly, but plenty that aren’t. If you’re lucky, you’ve found the perfect place that is accepting of your pet and loves having furry friends around. But what can you do if you have an emotional support or service animal and the place you have your heart set on doesn’t accept pets? Luckily, there are laws surrounding this issue that could help you out.
In Colorado, you cannot be discriminated against because of your service animal. Even if your lease has a “no pets” provision, it does not apply to your service animal. Your landlord cannot ask for proof, documentation or certification that it is a service animal. They are not allowed to charge additional fees or rent for a service animal, though they are allowed to charge you for any damages your animal may cause to the property. They are only allowed to ask if it is a service animal and what tasks it performs for you. To be considered a service animal, the animal must be trained to perform certain tasks, and the tasks performed MUST be related to your physical or mental condition.
Emotional Support Animals, or ESAs, are a little trickier. These animals require no special training and do not legally have to wear any identifying harnesses or other markers. They are for people suffering from psychological disabilities such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. They are protected by all the same rules as service animals under the FHA. The difference is if you have an ESA, you must request a “reasonable accommodation” from your landlord or property manager. If you have a disability and your disability is alleviated by your animal, you should be granted this accommodation, unless the landlord has substantial reason to believe it poses a significant threat to either the neighbors or the property. Landlords do have a little more control over ESAs – size, breed, etc can be a factor, if they will provide undue financial expense or hardship to the landlord’s business. An example would be an insurance company substantially increasing rates for certain breeds.
If you are a landlord and are concerned that your tenant is falsely claiming that an animal is a service or support animal, that’s okay! False claims have become so common in Colorado that they can carry a fine of up to $500. You are allowed to request a written statement from the tenant’s health care provider to prove they have a disability, though they cannot disclose specifics. You can also request health records for the pet to ensure they are up to date on vaccines and in good health. If the tenant is unwilling to provide these documents, you may have a case against them.