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Housing Rights and Resources

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Humane Rescue Alliance

Resources for Pet Owners Facing Issues Related to Pets in Housing


The Humane Rescue Alliance believes all families should have a safe home to live in where pets of all kinds are permitted to live with them. However, HRA recognizes that, for many pet owners, this is not a reality and that a common reason for relinquishment or rehoming of a beloved animal is the presence of pet restrictions in housing.

If you are a pet owner and are facing a situation in which you have to find another pet-friendly home or risk losing your animal, please contact the Humane Rescue Alliance for assistance: 202-723-5700

In addition, below are information and resources related to common housing-related issues that can be helpful in guiding your next steps as a pet owner and tenant.

COVID-19 pandemic housing protections
DC Renters' rights in private housing
DC Renters’ rights in public housing

Service and assistance animals
DC eviction process and legal support
Additional resources


COVID-19 Pandemic Housing Protections

What protections are currently in place for DC renters during the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • DC local law prohibits landlords from evicting a tenant during the public health emergency and for 60 days thereafter. The public health emergency is currently in place until March 31, 2021.
  • In the event that a tenant has financial hardship caused by the pandemic and is unable to pay all or a portion of their rent, landlords in DC must work with tenants on an achievable alternative payment plan that covers a one-year period after the end of the public health emergency if a tenant notifies the landlord of an inability to pay.
  • Rent increases during the public health emergency are prohibited
  • Housing providers are prohibited from charging a late fee on rent during the public health emergency
  • A federal eviction moratorium is also in effect until March 31, 2021 that applies to all renters, provided they meet income and other eligibility requirements.
  • To be protected under the federal moratorium, qualified renters facing eviction should provide a signed declaration to their landlords of their inability to pay rent and attesting that they meet the eligibility requirements. The requirements and an example of the declaration can be found on the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s website here.


Important:
The laws governing the tenant’s duty to pay rent have not changed. The moratoriums on eviction do not cancel rent or mean that money is not owed.

Sources:


What about public or HUD-funded affordable housing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The CDC order makes no distinction between public housing and other types of residential rental housing. In addition, the stronger provisions of the DC ordinance should remain in effect along with the CDC order. DC law is written broadly to include all evictions, and the DC Superior Court notes that all evictions are stayed.

Sources:


What about other bills like utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • Utility companies (electric, gas, water, cable, and telecommunications) are prohibited from disconnecting services during the state of emergency and for 15 days following the end of the emergency.
  • Utility providers must offer a payment plan for eligible customers for amounts that come due during the public health emergency provided customers notify the utility provider of an inability to pay all or a portion of the amount due.

Sources:  


Eviction Assistance for Tenants During the COVID-19 Pandemic

There are a number of rental relief programs available to DC citizens that can be found here.

For those facing possible eviction, there are several organizations in DC that specialize in aiding tenants. The mission of the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) is to provide technical advice and other legal services to tenants regarding disputes with landlords; to educate and inform the tenant community about tenant rights and rental housing matters; to advocate for the rights and interests of District renters in the legislative, regulatory, and judicial contexts; and to provide financial assistance to displaced tenants for certain emergency housing and tenant relocation expenses. The OTA is a resource for all DC residents facing eviction that provides in-house representation for tenants in certain cases and refers other cases to pro bono or contracted legal service providers and attorneys. You can reach the OTA at 202-719-6560. A list of resources is maintained on the website of the Office of the Tenant Advocate. You can view the list by clicking here

The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia provides free attorney review of all potential eviction disputes with landlords, as well as, legal disputes related to consumer debt collection, family law, domestic violence and public benefits qualification. While their primary population of focus are those who are low income, making 200% or less of the Federal Poverty Level, they will provide other resources for those who they may not be able to represent and encourage anyone who believes they have a legal issue and may qualify for help to reach out. The DC Legal Aid Society dedicated tenant hotline for rental housing questions is 202-851-3388 and the general intake line is 202-628-1161. Their website also has COVID FAQ's for each of their issue areas and guides for non-legal resources (groceries, diapers, etc.) in English and Spanish.


Renters' Rights in the District of Columbia

Residents of Privately-Owned Housing

The following is general information and does not constitute legal advice and is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date and is not assured to protect you from any liabilities or other legal exposures. To find out what your rights are, in your specific circumstances, or if you believe your rights are being violated, contact an attorney.

As a tenant in privately-owned housing in DC, you can live with a pet if...

  1. The lease does not prohibit pets, and
  2. The pet has not been deemed a nuisance or dangerous by the proper authorities. 


EXCEPTIONS:
 Even if your lease prohibits pets, you may still have a right to live with a pet if...

  • You have a mental or physical impairment and need the pet as a service or assistance animal (see below for further information on service or assistance animals)
  • You live in certain locally assisted or federally assisted housing accommodations for elderly persons or persons with disabilities
  • You have been living with your pet in violation of the lease and with your landlord’s knowledge, for a sufficient amount of time. There may be other reasons why you can have a pet even though your lease prohibits it. Always seek professional legal advice on issues pertaining to potential lease violations. Please see below for further information and legal resources.

Read full documentation on renters' rights for residents of privately-owned housing in the District of Columbia.

Residents of Public Housing – Property designated for seniors or residents with disabilities

If the DC Housing Authority is your landlord and you live in a property designated for seniors or residents with disabilities, you are permitted to own pets as long as:

  • The animal is a common household pet such as a dog, cat, bird, rodent, fish, or turtle and is otherwise a species that is legal to own in the District of Columbia,
  • No more than two pets live in the residence, with few exceptions,
  • The animal is not expected to be larger than 40 pounds and 20 inches in height, if a dog
  • The resident complies with registration requirements, including:
    • Register the animal with the property manager
    • Provide up-to-date vaccine record
    • Provide proof of spay/neuter if the animal is older than 6 months
    • Pay a refundable pet ownership fee, as reflected in the DCHA Schedule of Maintenance Charges.
    • Abide by any applicable Pet Lease Addendum.

Residents of Public Housing - Property not designated for seniors or residents with disabilities 

If the DC Housing Authority is your landlord and you do NOT live in a property designated for seniors or residents with disabilities, DC Housing Authority does not permit residents to have pets, unless the pet serves as a service or assistance animal (see information below).

Read full documentation on renters' rights for residents of public housing in the District of Columbia.


Service & Assistance Animals 

Compiled in collaboration with the Equal Rights Center.

Service Animals: 
A service animal is a dog or miniature horse that has been individually trained to do work or perform specific tasks for an individual with a disability. People are generally most familiar with guide dogs for blind individuals, but animals can be trained to perform other tasks. For example, a service dog could be trained to let a person with diabetes know when their blood sugar levels were becoming too low.  

Assistance Animals: Assistance animals refer to any animal that provides support, comfort or other assistance to their owner that is directly related to their disability. Assistance animals are not pets; however, they do not have to be trained to perform specific tasks. For example, an emotional support animal provides comfort to an individual with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

  Service Animals Assistance Animals
TYPE OF ANIMALS Dog or Miniature Horse

No breed restrictions apply
Any animal

No breed restrictions apply
 
APPLICABLE LAWS Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act: Section 504 Fair Housing Act: Section 504
WHERE THEY ARE ALLOWED All public accommodations and housing Housing and anywhere that allows pets


Your Rights in Public Accommodations

Service animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are allowed to accompany individuals in public and private spaces. The ADA requires federal and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations that provide goods or services to the public to make reasonable changes in their policies, practices, and/or procedures to accommodate people with disabilities. Assistance animals are not protected under the ADA and are not allowed to accompany individuals into public accommodations unless that facility allows pets.

For Business and Public Accommodations

When a person with a service animal enters a public facility or place of public accommodation, they can’t be asked about the nature or extent of their disability.

They can only be asked these questions if the reason why they have a service animal is not obvious:

  • Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

Your Rights In Housing

The Fair Housing Act and Section 504 allow owners of assistance and service animals to request a reasonable accommodation that allows these animals to reside with them in housing, including on DC Housing Authority properties. In order for a reasonable accommodation to be made, the owner must have a disability. Housing providers can request documentation that verifies you have a disability and that your service or assistance animal assists with your disability. However, this information can’t be required if the disability and reason for the assistance or service animal is obvious.

Reasonable Accommodations for Housing Providers

A reasonable accommodation is defined as a change in a rule, policy, practice, or procedure that doesn’t fundamentally alter the purpose of the institution. A housing provider is only entitled to obtain information that is necessary to evaluate if a requested reasonable accommodation may be necessary because of a disability. If the disability and relationship between the disability and the assistance or service animal are obvious, the provider may not seek additional information.

Verification of a disability for a reasonable accommodation may be provided by a medical professional, a peer support group, a non-medical agency or a reliable third party. The verification only needs to establish that the person has a disability and that the assistance animal helps with their disability. A housing provider can’t request a detailed medical history or overly specific medical information. Housing providers can’t require persons with disabilities to pay extra fees or deposits as a condition of receiving a reasonable accommodation.

Grounds for Exclusion 

Service animals must be kept under control and can be excluded if their presence would fundamentally alter the service provided (i.e. they can be restricted from zoo areas in which natural predators of dogs are housed). An individual can be asked to remove their service animal from the premises if the animal isn’t housebroken or if the animal is out of control and they fail to take effective action to control it. If this happens, staff must offer the individual an opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence in the facility.

Filing a Discrimination Complaint

If you experience discrimination based on having an assistance or service animal, you have the right to file a complaint. You can file a complaint with the following agencies:

  • For discrimination that occurs in housing or public accommodations in the Washington, DC metro, you can file a complaint with the Equal Rights Center at 202-234-3062 or [email protected].
  • For discrimination that occurs in housing or public accommodations in the District of Columbia, you can file a complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights.
  • For discrimination in housing nationwide, you can file a complaint with HUD.
  • For an ADA-based discrimination in public accommodations nationwide, you can file a complaint with the DOJ.
     

Eviction Process in D.C.

Landlords who wish to evict tenants for pet-related issues must follow the formal, legal process for eviction in Washington, D.C. In many instances, threats of eviction do not constitute proof that the landlord has formally initiated the eviction process. In all instances, HRA encourages pet owners to review the information below about the formal eviction process and seek legal counsel should they encounter threats of eviction or have concern over retaliatory actions or comments by their landlord.

Information collected through Washington, D.C.’s Office of the Tenant Advocate. For more information, please click here.  

A tenant may only be evicted for:

  • Nonpayment of rent;
  • Violation of an obligation of tenancy, of which the tenant failed to correct after notice;
  • Tenant performed an illegal act within the rental unit;
  • Landlord seeks in good faith to occupy the rental unit for personal use and occupancy;
  • Landlord sells rental unit to a party who seeks in good faith to occupy the rental unit for personal use and occupancy;
  • Landlord seeks to renovate rental unit in a manner in which tenant cannot safely occupy;
  • Landlord seeks to demolish rental unit;
  • Landlord seeks to substantially rehabilitate rental unit;
  • Landlord seeks to discontinue rental unit for housing and occupancy; or
  • Landlord seeks to convert rental unit to a condominium or cooperative after securing governmental approval.

To evict a tenant, the landlord must go through the legal process. The tenant must be given at least three weeks notice, and:

  • A written Notice to Vacate (except for non-payment of rent, if the tenant waived the right to notice in the lease);
  • An opportunity to cure the lease violation if that is the basis for the action; and
  • An opportunity to challenge the landlord’s claims in court.
  • Any eviction must be pursuant to a court order and must be scheduled and supervised by the U.S. Marshals Service.         

Legal Support Services for D.C. Tenants Facing Eviction

DC Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA)
The OTA is a resource for all D.C. residents facing eviction that provides in-house representation for tenants in certain cases and refers other cases to pro bono or contracted legal service providers and attorneys.

You can reach the OTA at 202-719-6560. A full list of OTA’s legal resources can be found by clicking here.

The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia provides free attorney review of all potential eviction disputes with landlords, as well as, legal disputes related to consumer debt collection, family law, domestic violence and public benefits qualification. While their primary population of focus are those who are low income, making 200% or less of the Federal Poverty Level, they will provide other resources for those who they may not be able to represent and encourage anyone who believes they have a legal issue and may qualify for help to reach out.

The Legal Aid Society’s dedicated tenant hotline for rental housing questions is 202-851-3388 and the general intake line is 202-628-1161. In addition, their website has guides for non-legal resources (groceries, diapers, etc.) in English and Spanish.


Additional Resources:

  • Equal Rights Center: For discrimination that occurs in housing or public accommodations in the Washington, D.C. metro area, related to service and assistance animals, you can file a complaint with the Equal Rights Center at 202-234-3062 or click here.
  • Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia: If you earn 200% or less of the Federal Poverty Level and have rental housing questions and legal service needs, please contact 202-851-3388 or click here.
  • Office of the Tenant Advocate: For more information about your rights as a tenant in Washington, D.C. and for other technical advice and legal services, please 202-719-6560 or click here.
  • D.C. Tenants’ Rights in Public Housing: Download the flyer here.
  • D.C. Tenants’ rights in Privately-Owned Housing: Download the flyer here.
  • D.C.’s Office of Human Rights: Fair Housing Resources.
  • HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity: For more information related to rights and landlord obligations pertaining to assistance animals, please click here.
  • Assistance Animal Users' Public Accommodations and Fair Housing Toolkit

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