This page provides basic information on housing including issues related to support/assistance and service animals and the laws that govern reasonable accommodation as well as some leads for finding pet-friendly housing and/or shelter in the San Francisco Bay Area.
To read a section, click on the appropriate heading below.
What is reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is a change in current policies or practices that is necessary to provide an equal opportunity to use and enjoy one’s home. Accommodations must be related to the disability and there are several laws that protect the rights of people with support or service animals in their homes.
Federally, the Fair Housing Amendments Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require reasonable accommodations. Federal laws are enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In California there are similar protections provided by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) which is enforced by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
Both federally and in California, the responsible departments will investigate and enforce any discriminatory behavior constituting a denial or violation of reasonable accommodations. You may also want to contact your local fair housing agency as they may be able to respond to your request for assistance more quickly.
What Are My Rights?
Reasonable accommodations have consistently been upheld for several areas in regard to animals, and have formed a strong core of rights regarding the use and enjoyment of one’s home.
Support and service animals have the right to access all common areas of the dwelling. Common areas may include lobbies, stairwells, shared outdoor spaces, entrances, exits or any other space that can be accessed by all of the inhabitants of the building.
Additionally, a resident may not be charged a deposit or additional fee as a condition of allowing a service or support animal in the dwelling. No modifications or additions to any lease agreement may be required as a prerequisite to allowing a service or support animal on the premises though both landlord and tenant may find it helpful to outline general expectations regarding animals.
As a general rule under the ADA (American With Disabilities Act) and the Fair Housing Act, people with disabilities do not have to identify their disability, though if a disability is not obvious, a landlord may ask for verification of a disability and evidence of need for a service or support animal from a licensed professional (doctor, nurse practitioner, mental health professional or social worker).
For further information about the general rights and responsibilities regarding service and support animals please see our Service and Support Animals page here.
When Is Denial of Accommodation Justified?
A denial of accommodation may be justified if the accommodation is unreasonable. Primarily, an accommodation is unreasonable if it poses an undue burden (financial or change in function of facility) or a direct threat (an immediate threat of substantial harm to person or property). There may be other legitimate reasons for a denial but in all instances the decision must be made on a case by case basis.
In regards to animals, there must be some evaluative criteria or prior history in regards to the specific animal in question in order for a landlord to make an adequate assessment of undue burden or direct threat. Without an adequate assessment, any denial of accommodation will create an inference of discrimination on the part of the landlord.
What are My Responsibilities?
In order to protect yourself, your animal and your rights there are some basic responsibilities regarding service and support animals in housing.
First, all animals must be under control when in common areas.
Second, animals should not create a nuisance or unreasonable disturbance of other’s use and enjoyment of the dwelling.
Third, any damage or waste created by the animal is the responsibility of the owner and should be remedied as soon as possible.
Lastly, all responsibility for the care and maintenance of the animal is the sole responsibility of the owner.
For more information see our Service and Support Animals page here.
Finding Housing and/or Shelter in the San Francisco Bay Area
Finding housing that is adequate for all of our needs can often be difficult. When faced with finding housing there are several resources in the Bay Area that can help people who have formed a bond with their animals and wish to maintain the entire family (animals included).
Pet Friendly Housing Providers
There are many pet friendly housing options in the Bay Area. Many of the pet friendly options are through small management companies or landlords but there are some larger management companies that provide low-cost housing that allow pets.
ALL housing providers must allow service and support animals that are a reasonable accommodation with no extra charge or deposit. Whereas housing providers that allow pets can ask for a deposit and other conditions to having a pet.
Here are three major pet friendly management companies that you can contact to find out about available low-income pet-friendly housing:
Community Housing Partnership
Satellite Affordable Housing Associates
In San Francisco there are several shelters that allow pets. Additionally, all shelters must accommodate service and support animals (though may require certain restraints for safety). There are 3 shelters in San Francisco that actually have facilities for pets:
Multi-Service Center South
525 5th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
201 8th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
1001 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94109