62 Replies Latest reply: Sep 10, 2019 11:43 AM by twobitrentals RSS

    Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?

    georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

      What is HomeAway's service animal policy?

      HomeAway is an inclusive marketplace built on a foundation of trust, safety, and respect. We are open to all and those using the HomeAway platform are required to act in a trustworthy, safe and respectful manner.

      HomeAway requires all property owners and managers with properties located in the United States and U.S. Territories to accommodate guests who require the use of a service animal. This applies regardless of a property’s normal house rules pet policy since service animals are not pets.

       

      What is a service animal?

      A service animal is a dog that has been, or is being, individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. 

      Some examples of these tasks include, but are not limited to:

      • Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks
      • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds
      • Pulling a wheelchair
      • Assisting an individual during a seizure
      • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
      • Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone
      • Providing physical support with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities

       

      Can property owners and managers request documentation for a service animal?

      No. Service animals are not required to have any form of documentation evidencing training, specialized certification, or wear tags, vests or other items that indicate training. An owner or property manager may only ask the following questions:

      • Whether the service dog is required because of a disability
      • What work the dog has been trained to perform

       

      Can a property owner or manager charge a pet fee or increase existing fees for a service animal?

      No. Since service animals are not pets, owners or managers cannot charge a pet fee or increase the security deposit usually charged.

       

      Is the policy based on laws that apply to the owner or manager's property?

      HomeAway’s policy does not take into account what the law might be in place where the listing is located. Compliance with HomeAway’s policy is required regardless of what laws, HOA restrictions, or breed restrictions might be applicable to the listing location. As always, we encourage owners to review the laws applicable to their property.

       

      What if a service animal damages a property?

      Since these service animals are generally well-trained, it is reasonable to assume the animal will not cause damage. If a service animal does damage a property, the property owner or manager can retain the appropriate amount from a guest’s deposit to compensate for damages as they would for any guest without a service animal. If you have Property Damage Protection insurance, you can contact CSA to learn more about what their policy may cover for service animal damages.

       

      Do travelers have to disclose the presence of a service animal?

      No. Travelers are not legally required to disclose the presence of a service animal. However, we do encourage open communication so that an owner or property manager may make reasonable accommodations for the stay.

       

      Can an owner or manager decide whether a property is right for a disabled traveler?

      No. As with all situations, we recommend that owners and managers accurately describe the property to all potential guests. Providing the best information possible will help travelers decide  whether it is the right property for them.

       

      When can a guest be asked to remove their service animal?

      In the unlikely event that the service animal is causing damage to the property, and the animal’s owner does not take effective action, the homeowner may ask that the service animal be removed. The property owner or manager should allow the traveler to use the property without the animal if they wish to do so.

       

      Can a service animal be restricted to certain areas within a property?

      No. Service animals must have the same access to the property as their owner, but can be excluded from swimming pools.

       

      Is an emotional support animal the same as a service animal?

      No. An emotional support animal may provide comfort and calming to a pet owner. These animals are different than a service dog because they do not have specific task training for a disability. The accommodation of an emotional support animal is something that owners and property managers and travelers should discuss and decide between themselves.

       

      How will HomeAway handle violations?

      HomeAway will investigate any complaint of violation of this policy and take appropriate action. This could include temporary or permanent delisting of a property or an owner or property manager or banning a traveler from the platform.

        • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
          twobitrentals CommunityAmbassador

          This follows the law and I am glad you posted so there is no confusion for owners

          • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
            calicalling Active Contributor

            One detail this statement seems to miss is that service animals (by virtue of being required for service) should never be left alone in our homes. I have this statement in my rules and many parents of service animals decide not to bring them when I point this out.

             

            For the record I have 0% problem with authentic service animals. I have 150% problem with pets wearing $25 vests claiming them to be what they are not. I devalues the necessity, training and role of true service animals.

              • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                hmmmm Senior Contributor

                I always tell them they are welcome, and that is such a great help for the disable in need of their services for their disabilities.

                 

                And I do add that its works out great for us, as the service animals are never left in the home as they are servicing the person 24/7.

                I do know that the there are forms:

                Sample form:

                Resident(s):

                Owner/Agent: Leased Premises: City:

                Service/Companion Animal
                Request for Reasonable Accommodation and Agreement

                State: Zip:

                Unit #:

                Federal, and State laws require that Owner/Agents provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with a disability, this includes the accommodation of a service or companion animal. Emotional support or companion animals are not legally defined in the same way as service animals, and are generally not trained to perform a specific task however, these animals are covered under the Fair Housing Act and ADA and require that Owner/Agent make reasonable accommodation and be exempt from no pet policies. Resident will be asked to provide written proof in the event that the disability is not obvious or apparent. The Owner/Agent may ask to verify that the resident is in ‘need’ of the companion animal.

                Resident requests reasonable accommodation to have a service/companion animal in the unit. This request is for: ___________________________________________________[Resident’s Name]. I/Resident need(s) this accommodation for: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________

                Resident Verbally requested that a Service Animal be permitted.

                Service Animal was requested by ______________________________________________________,relationship to Resident __________________________________________________________________________________.

                Proof of Need. Submit to Owner/Agent written proof from a Doctor, Therapist, Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Social Worker, or other healthcare professional as required by law, stating that the animal helps cope with the person’s disability or provides emotional support. The certification should include the issuer’s license number, contact and business information; as well as number of necessary companions. Proof should be provided on a prescription, or letterhead.

                Owner/Agent will notify Resident in writing within 14 days of receiving all necessary information, request, and or proof of the decision.

                Upon acceptance of the request, Resident shall complete and submit, Appendix A of the Companion Animal Agreement.

                Service/Companion Animal Responsibility. The Resident is responsible for his/her companion animal. If a companion animal becomes unruly, disturbs the peace and quiet enjoyment of other residents through nuisance, excessive noise including barking, whining, or whose behavior poses a threat to the health and safety of others, resident may be asked to remove animal from Premises.

                Resident is responsible for cleaning up after service/companion animal and dispose of all waste; in addition, Resident must observe all leash laws. Resident must keep animal in control at all times when on the grounds.

                 

                Service/Companion Animal
                Request for Reasonable Accommodation and Agreement

                While service/companion animals are not pets, animal must have all vaccinations required by law and provide proof of vaccinations to Owner/Agent. Further Resident acknowledges that the animal must be leashed.

                Service/Companion Animals that appear to be poorly cared for or abused will be reported to the appropriate authority for removal at the Resident’s expense.

                No Companion Animal will be allowed in the Premises unless a Companion Animal Agreement is completed. Resident may not bring additional companion animals into the Premises that have not been approved or add companion animals without prior written request, approval and documentation.

                Resident(s):
                _____________________________________ Date___________________

                _____________________________________ Date___________________ _____________________________________ Date___________________ _____________________________________ Date___________________

                Owner/Agent:
                _____________________________________ Date___________________

              • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                green_mango Active Contributor

                Great question - This is a really important issue and this notice from VRBO seems to have slid under the radar....

                 

                The ADA link provided above is really helpful, and it refers to HUD's Fair Housing Act Requirements (https://archives.hud.gov/news/2013/huddojstatement.pdf).  Those requirements state that, "The reasonable accommodation requirements of the Fair Housing Act also do not apply to owner-occupied buildings that have four or fewer dwelling units." - To me, this opens the door to a gray area.  A private owner, who rents their 2nd vacation home, could use this exception to argue that they are not required to welcome service animals. 

                 

                I'm keeping an eye on the Hemenway vs HomeAway lawsuit which surely prompted this policy change. 

                 

                I personally welcome dogs at our rental, so in 4 years I've never had someone claim to have a "service dog" - I feel the rentals who don't allow pets are the ones who get guests asking for exceptions because they have a "service animal" which 99% of the time doesn't appear to be a true service animal - those guests are ruining it for people with disabilities and true service animals. 

                 

                What I really take exception to is the actual statement by VRBO - they claim they're not a party to the booking, merely a listing site, and yet impose their own rules, and take another step by literally overriding the law ("Compliance with HomeAway’s policy is required regardless of what laws..."). 

                 

                Is the solution for an owner with a severe dog allergy to never be a vacation rental owner? 

                 

                  • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                    twobitrentals CommunityAmbassador

                    I Know that many have argued that the 4 or less excludes some Vacation Rentals. I think for those that believe this to be true should call the 800 number to get to the actual law. I believe that the fair house exclusion only speaks to other discrimination issues, NOT service animals. However, if someone can prove otherwise, I am all eyes and ears. And it does state that it includes all businesses, so if you have a business license then you probably are included in the requirement.

                     

                    We have also talked about this on other older threads and the answers may be found there.

                     

                    Edited to add: It doesn’t really matter either way.......HA is requiring it so really any further research doesn’t help with what Georgygirl1955 has made available to us. If we use HA we will comply with the law

                    • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                      feibus Senior Contributor

                      Owner-occupied buildings means I own the entire building and live there and the building has four or fewer distinct living spaces in that same building.  Most of us don't have that.

                        • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                          twobitrentals CommunityAmbassador

                          Just a good idea for us to embrace the laws whether or not they apply to our specific situation. We all want bookings without any issues of discrimination of any kind. Even if I owned property that is excluded from the law I wouldn’t eliminate anyone that will respect the house rules at all times, just not worth the fight should it arise to defend. I think that is the important thing to remember.....being sued, means that WE have to defend and prove that we are not guilty of any discrimination and if I understand the law corrrectly the plantiff of a discrimination suit does not have to reimburse defendant attorney costs, or court costs even if found innocent. The thought is that if the plantiff had the fear of paying defendants costs they would never find a claim. (Now this is my understanding from the mid 90’s, if an attorney wants to jump in with a correction it would be welcomed).

                          • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                            green_mango Active Contributor

                            I think we're interpreting the text differently - and that's why I really feel like this is a gray area...  Owner occupied building (vacation home - I occupy it when I can) & four or fewer dwelling units - that can mean 1 dwelling unit (single family home).  I don't see where it says anything about distinct living spaces in the same building?   Maybe I cut off the quote too early.

                             

                            Like I said though, I welcome dogs & service animals, so not really my battle to fight, but I strongly dislike VRBO coming in and saying what owners can't and can't do when they claim not to be a party to the transaction.  Can't have it both ways.

                        • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                          feibus Senior Contributor

                          Let me stir this pot a little again:

                           

                          https://www.topsailrentalsonline.com/service-animals.asp

                           

                          As a licensed Real Estate company in North Carolina, we have a duty to our clients to protect their properties and ensure they get paid for the use of their properties. Our company offers three types of pet/allergen properties for vacation rental use: Pet Friendly (anyone can bring a pet by paying a pet fee and TRUE Service Animals do not pay a pet fee), No Pets (guests may not bring pets to the owner’s property, but the owners might, however TRUE Service Animals are allowed and do not pay a pet fee), and Pet Free (the property is guaranteed to be free any pet allergens for all guests and the owner, animals are never allowed, Service Animals are not permitted per the law). When a property is a "Pet Free" property, the laws protect the property owner from having to endure an "unreasonable accommodation" for allowing the service animal. Our Pet Free properties are guaranteeing the property owner, and future guests, that may have extreme medical issues regarding animal allergies; that the property will be free of these allergens. Just as some people require a service/assistance animal for medical or mental purposes; some people have debilitating medical reactions to animal dander or hair, which is why "Pet Free" properties are identified. The cost of bringing a "Pet Free" property back to "Pet Free" status is a very unreasonable burden to a property owner. It can include a deep cleaning fee ($200 to $700), carpet cleaning the entire property ($85 to $500), laundering all bedding; blankets, comforters, mattress pads, etc ($100 to $500), cleaning of all furniture, sofas, fabric covered items, curtains, etc. ($100 to $1000), and more depending on the property. These items would have to be performed in order to assure the medical safety of future guests, or the owner, that have been guaranteed a "Pet Free"/pet dander free environment. They would have to be performed between the last guest checking out and the next guest checking in (usually 6 hours or less), which usually can’t happen due to the time of services required for this work and would cause the property owner to lose future rents in addition to the cleaning expenses. Because of this, we can not allow any animals into a Pet Free property, regardless of their work, certifications, status, disabilities, etc. The law protects property owners from unreasonable burdens.

                           

                          From the ADA's own web site:

                          Q25. When can service animals be excluded?

                          A. The ADA does not require covered entities to modify policies, practices, or procedures if it would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the goods, services, programs, or activities provided to the public.  Nor does it overrule legitimate safety requirements.  If admitting service animals would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program, service animals may be prohibited.  In addition, if a particular service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded.

                           

                          So if you advertise your home as being "Pet Free", you do appear to have the right to exclude service animals, because the animal's dander would fundamentally alter the nature of your "Pet Free" home.

                           

                          So how does HomeAway handle this conflict between their blanket statements and the law?

                          • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                            feibus Senior Contributor

                            Interesting... more reading on this:

                             

                            ADA is handled differently by different agencies.  FHA also includes ESAs as part of their requirements, but it's arguably not applicable to short-term vacation rentals, because these are not residences in most cases.  The person visiting does not receive mail, is not expected to clean it, etc., so it's not a temporary residence.  So it's not considered "housing" in most cases.  If you have a snowbird staying 2 months, you're probably into tenancy anyway, and that makes it a residence.

                             

                            ADA tightened its guidelines to just dogs and mini horses.  So a cat that can supposedly detect seizures, that's not included.  A monkey that can open pill bottles... also out.  Fascinating, though, there's not a huge amount of case law around the edges yet.  I guess people tend to settle before they get to that part.

                            • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                              wildiris Active Contributor

                              Something to keep in mind is that 23 states have laws making it illegal to misrepresent a pet as a service animal.  If your vacation rental is in one of these states and you think a guest is misrepresenting their pet as a service animal, you may want to let them know about the law of your particular state.  Here are the 23 states with such laws: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

                              • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                                hmmmm Senior Contributor

                                I think it should defer to the Federal and state laws

                                • Re: Was there any discussion on this information posted by HA about Service Animals?
                                  koko Active Contributor

                                  georgygirl1955 wrote:

                                   

                                  What is HomeAway's service animal policy?

                                  HomeAway is an inclusive marketplace built on a foundation of trust, safety, and respect. We are open to all and those using the HomeAway platform are required to act in a trustworthy, safe and respectful manner.

                                  HomeAway requires all property owners and managers with properties located in the United States and U.S. Territories to accommodate guests who require the use of a service animal. This applies regardless of a property’s normal house rules pet policy since service animals are not pets.


                                  Is the policy based on laws that apply to the owner or manager's property?

                                  HomeAway’s policy does not take into account what the law might be in place where the listing is located. Compliance with HomeAway’s policy is required regardless of what laws, HOA restrictions, or breed restrictions might be applicable to the listing location. As always, we encourage owners to review the laws applicable to their property.

                                  seems to me that HA will rather get you in trouble with your HOA and/or applicable laws regarding the "safety" of your guests when they stumble into a place full of dander of a service dog/cat.

                                  It is next to IMPOSSIBLE to remove dander from wall to wall carpeting as it nests itself between the backing of the carpet and the padding. Every time you walk over it it gets stirred up and vacuums might spread it even more if they are not the hypo allergenic type filter vacs.

                                  Home Away has therefore put the safety of one type of guest over the one of the other.

                                  Guests whose disability require a service animal ( and I for one am very grateful for these animals as they make live so much better for so many people) and can bring that animal unannounced and secretly into the rental property and thereby turning this property into a booby trap for someone who has dander allergies.

                                  The owner in turn has become an unwitting aid to someone else's severe reaction and/or possible death because the place had not been even attempted to be cleaned of dander, which takes considerable time and requires much more than deep cleaning. The added expense would of course also be born by said owner and HA  I guess would not reduce the fees since they are the ones imposing such costs onto the owner with their policy.

                                  Now to think this through a bit more: the added time for cleaning, if you are lucky enough to have a neighbor call you and say: "your guests have a dog in your pet free rental" would make a mess out of your reservation schedule at a minimum, or else cancellation necessary which then of course would right away count against you and put you right  back to position 4300 so that all your pushes and boosts are burned up in one fell swoop.

                                   

                                  The more I think about this the more I wonder if HA has found it's role as an aid to the governments to collect taxes and ensure "compliance" of independent property owners who just happen to list their properties on their web site than as an advocate for just these people who pay them handsomely for something they are not getting: support