Companion animals are very different from pets, and if you are a landlord in Portland, you need to be aware of those important distinctions. You cannot treat a tenant with a companion animal the same way you would treat someone who has a pet. For example, the number one rule you have to remember is that you cannot charge an extra deposit for a companion animal. When you have a tenant who is moving in with a pet, you might charge an extra $500 in your deposit, for example, to cover any damages that might be done by that animal during the term of the lease. That is legal and acceptable. However, when a tenant moves into your property with a companion animal, you are not permitted to charge an extra security deposit the way you would for a pet.
You are also not permitted to discriminate against any tenants or applicants because they have a companion animal. Additionally, you cannot discriminate against any breeds when you have companion animals moving in with tenants. For example, your pet policy might state that you do not allow German Shepherds in your property. That’s for pets. If your tenant has a companion animal that happens to be a German Shepherd, you have to permit that dog to live on the property with your tenant.
If you have a tenant moving in who has a companion animal, or one of your tenants who is already renting property from you develops a need for a companion animal, there are two things you will need to ask for. First, ask for a verification letter. This letter can usually be obtained from the tenant’s physician or counselor. Ask for a copy of the letter explaining the person’s need for a companion animal. In addition to that letter, you will need the tenant to fill out a Reasonable Accommodation Request Form. You can often find that form online, and if you have trouble locating it, ask your property manager to help you access it. You can also get the form from the Portland Metro Housing office. Check their website and print out the correct form if you cannot find it anywhere else.
Pay attention to the major difference between a pet and a companion animal. As a landlord, you are required to treat those animals differently than you would treat a pet. If you have any questions about how to proceed, or you need help with the paperwork, please contact us at Jim McNeeley Real Estate.