What Are the Montana State Housing Laws for Allowing Service Animals?

Each state has the capabilities to determine its own laws regarding service animals and emotional support animals, as long they do not diminish federal laws. In Montana, both the federal Fair Housing Act and Montana law prohibit discrimination in rental housing against residents who require service animals.

As a landlord, you must allow full and equal access to your rental property for qualified tenants who are moving in with service or support animals. You cannot charge those residents any extra deposits or fees for the service animal.

This pertains to you even if you don’t allow pets on your property. Not allowing pets is perfectly legal. However, service and support animals are not considered pets.

Service Animals in Montana are not Pets

Many rental property owners don’t want to open their investment properties to pets. They’re worried about the damage that can be caused and the liability that often comes with dogs and cats living in the rental home.

Federal and state law considers service animals to be accommodations, just like a wheelchair ramp or a handrail or a reserved parking spot for people with disabilities. You cannot deny a tenant who has a service animal, companion animal, or emotional support animal even if you don’t allow pets.

Not only can you not deny these animals - but you also cannot charge a pet deposit or a pet fee. You cannot charge any pet rent.

Montana landlords are not required to accept pets. But, you are required to accept service and support animals, and you cannot deny a tenant who is otherwise qualified for your home just because he or she is moving in with a service animal.

Bozeman Property Management and Reducing Liability

While you have to allow service animals into your property when a tenant needs the accommodation, there are some things you can do to mitigate your liability and the risk to your property.

The first step is that the tenant will submit a request for a reasonable accommodation. Service animals are trained to perform a specific set of tasks to assist their owner. Emotional support animals are a little different, as they are not required to have any specific training. The animals are designated as providing emotional support or therapy. They provide a valuable resource to those individuals that actually need them. However, the abuse of the rules surrounding emotional support animals is rampant and causes problems in the travel industry, hospitality industry and housing. It is prudent to require that anyone requesting a reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal complete a questionnaire, that has been approved by Fair Housing, for verification of the prescribed condition and existence of a legitimate provider.

Tenants are also responsible for their service and support animals. You cannot charge a pet deposit, but you can still charge a security deposit, and if there is damage to the property after a tenant moves out due to the animal, you can deduct the cost of repairs. You can also require your tenant to clean up after the service or support animal and keep it from being a nuisance to neighbors and other tenants in a building.

This is still a confusing area of the law for many rental property owners and landlords, and it’s always evolving. We’re here to help you stay in compliance. If you have any questions about pets, service animals, or anything pertaining to Bozeman property management, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Peak Property Management.