A SC new state law gives some guidance but this law is new and there may be future challenges to the law so always call the hotline and always recommend the landlord hire a law firm if the landlord or you want to prevent the animal. Always beware asking additional questions about the disability and animal and animal tasking as it is easy to go too far and create potential liability for yourself.
SECTION 6. Section 31-21-70 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding an appropriately lettered subsection to read:
"(1) A landlord may ask a tenant or prospective tenant the following questions to determine whether an animal that is not a service animal should be deemed a reasonable accommodation:
(a) ‘Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability that is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?’
(b) ‘Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability-related need for the animal?’
(2) Landlords may request documentation to verify the tenant’s responses to the above questions. Such documentation shall be deemed sufficient if it establishes that an individual has a disability and that the animal in question will provide some type of disability-related assistance or emotional support."
Because there has not been a case law test on service animals (e.g. seeing eye dog/horse) and assistance/comfort/emotional support animals, be careful and err on allowing then animal unless you desire to potentially become the test case. Airlines allow animals due to legal risks. Since you work with housing, you also face fair housing lawsuits, fair housing laws, fair housing ethics, fair housing license law, and media which tends to side with the tenant and animal.
Fair housing laws mean you cannot discriminate against disabled tenants and the landlord must make reasonable accommodation to disabled housing. Allowing a comfort/assistance/emotional support animal into the housing is arguably a reasonable accommodation for a disability.
CALL THE SCR LEGAL HOTLINE ANYTIME YOU ARE IN THE ANIMAL SITUATION.
If a landlord wants to go beyond these questions, best to recommend the landlord hire a law firm to correctly handle the issues.
Questions paraphrased again (don’t go down the slippery slope of follow up questions unless a lawyer is guiding your questions):
Is this animal a pet? If yes…Then apply your pet policy.
If not a pet: Does this animal assist with your disability? Yes. Therefore, no pet policy applied and no pet rent and no pet charges and no pet deposits.
Is this animal safe and healthy and vaccinated?
If the animal does damage, then use the security deposit or sue for damages. Even if a seeing eye dog scratches a hole in the wall, you can charge the blind tenant for the wall repair damages.
Do not ask about the disability, especially if the disability if obvious (e.g. blind, wheelchair).
Some landlords may perceive the assistance/comfort/emotional support animal as a scam to end-run pet prohibitions and pet fees and pet deposits. However, there are some assistance/comfort/emotional support animals who help with veterans suffering from wartime PTSD, or stroke/seizure, depression, autism, etc. and are not a scam to end-run pet prohibitions and pet charges and pet deposits.
Recent NAR magazine article about HUD trying to help landlords with this issue:
SCR Youtube video with SC Human Affairs Commission speaker on assistance/support animals that are not service animals but are not pets either.
Posted by: Byron King on 06/13/19 (This information is only accurate as of 06/13/19. You must contact SCR for updates and changes to this information after 06/13/19 as laws and regulations may change over time. SCR 803-772-5206 or email info at screaltors.org)