Attention Landlords - New Law on Service Animals

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 A new law regarding service and assistance animals is now in effect.  

In Particular the law:

1. Has the definitions of a “Service” animal (dog or miniature horse) vs. an “Assistance animal”.  (Basically any animal which provides for better living for a person with a disability) 

2. Landlords waive lease restrictions or additional payments for keeping of service or assistance animals.  A landlord who “knowingly” denies or interferes with the rights of a person with a disability is guilty of a simple misdemeanor.

3. Tenants are liable for damage done by an animal.

4. A person licensed or certified as a Iowa Doctor, Surgeon, Physician Assistant, Nurse, Psychologist, Social worker, or Behavior Scientist  who is requested to make a “prescription” for EITHER an assistance or service animal must: 
a. Issue a written finding the patient has a disability; AND
b. A separate written finding whether the need for either animal is related to the disability.
And the licensed person MUST
1. Meet with the patient in person or by telemedicine; AND 
2. Be sufficiently familiar with the patient and the disability; AND
3. The licensee is legally and professionally qualified to make the written finding.

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission will be making Administrative Rules, and will create a form confirming the above.  The form must be used for employment disability accommodation, and landlords may deny an accommodation request for persons who do not have a “readily apparent” disability, or who fails to provide the form/documentation. 

The civil rights law now extends to person who are training service-animals.

More Key Points:

1. A person who intentionally misrepresents an animal is a service animal or service-animal in training, upon conviction, is guilty of a simple misdemeanor. 
a. To find this “crime” all the following elements must be established
i. Intentionally misrepresents it is a service animal or one in-training;
ii. The person was previously given a written or verbal warning regarding the fact that it is illegal to intentionally misrepresent an animal as a service animal;  iii. The person knows the animal is NOT a service animal. 

2. A owner or landlord would not be liable for any injury  or damages (AKA =$$$) for service animal if all the following are met:
a. The owner believes in good-faith that the animal is a service animal;  b. The injury or damage is not cause by the owner’s negligence, recklessness, or willful misconduct.


Practical advice to Landlords 

Landlords should include immediately in the renter's application packet a warning to prospective tenants that is it illegal to intentionally misrepresent an animal as a service animal.  They should also check to see if it is indeed an Iowa licensed based health provider who “writes the prescription” for the Service or Assistance animal.

The bill is a good start to cleaning up some of the shenanigans which have appeared in landlord and tenant lore recently, but more could have been done (as it always seems!) 

- Paul McLaughlin, IAR Legal Counsel

 Photos by Martin Castro and Vincent Van Zalinge on Unsplash