Be Prepared to Accommodate Service Animals

Approximately 50% of fair housing complaints filed with HUD, state and local enforcement agencies allege that a housing or real estate professional refused to accommodate a person with a disability. To avoid a fair housing complaint, real estate professionals must be prepared to accommodate disabled buyers and sellers who arrive at open houses, office visits, and other meetings accompanied by a service animal.

According to HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, "[r]ules, policies, or practices must be modified to permit the use of an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation in housing when its use may be necessary to afford a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, common areas of a dwelling, or participate in, or benefit from, any housing HUD, unless an exception applies."

An animal qualifies as a reasonable accommodation

…under the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended (42 U.S.C. 3601 — 3631)) if:

  • An individual has a disability, as defined in the Fair Housing Act;
  • The animal is needed to assist with the disability; and
  • The individual who requests the reasonable accommodation demonstrates that there is a relationship between the disability and the assistance that the animal provides. 73 Fed. Reg. 63834, (October 27, 2008).

Some key points to keep in mind…

  • For the purposes of fair housing laws, a service animal is an auxiliary aid, like a wheelchair, rather than a pet.
  • Service animals may be a species other than a dog and can vary considerably in breed, size or weight.
  • There is no legal requirement for service animals to wear unique markings or possess and display proof of certification.
  • HUD does not require service animals to be trained and those that are may be trained by their owners.
  • It is reasonable to expect a service animal’s owner to be responsible for caring for the animal and controlling its conduct.

For more detailed information about fair housing issues, the Fair Housing Partners of Washington State offer a wealth of free resources, including a guide book for real estate professionals entitled Fair Housing for Real Estate Industry Professionals: Top 100 Frequently Asked Questions and Answers. You can download it from King County Office of Civil Rights at


Vicente "Omar" Barraza

Vicente "Omar" Barraza’s firm, Barraza Law, PLLC, primarily represents immigrants and consumers in financial distress. Omar’s passion for civil rights was sparked by a college internship with the United States Department of Justice. Omar came to Washington State in 1995 to help establish the Fair Housing Center of Washington and worked for the King County Office of Civil Rights investigating housing discrimination complaints prior to being admitted to the Washington State Bar in 2011. He can be reached at


U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development

TTY 206-220-5185
Fax 206-220-5447

Washington State Human Rights Commission

800-233-3247 in WA
TTY 800-300-7525
Fax 360-586-2282

King County Office of Civil Rights

TTY Relay: 711
Fax 206-296-4329

Seattle Office for Civil Rights

TTY 206-684-4503
Fax 206-684-0332

Tacoma Human Rights

TTY 253-591-5153
Fax 253-591-5050

Fair Housing Center of Washington (Western WA)

888-766-8800 (toll free)
Fax 253-274-8220

Northwest Fair Housing Alliance (Eastern WA)

800-200-FAIR (in 509 area code)
Fax 509-325-2716


Watch the Washington REALTOR® Legal Hotline Lawyer Annie Fitzsimmons on Washington REALTORS® YouTube Channel for her 10-part series on Fair Housing. Watch Now.

Articles, News and Legal Hotline Q & A's found on the Washington REALTORS® website are intended for Washington REALTOR® members only. None of the information contained herein constitutes legal counsel. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the contributors. Legal Q & A's are written by the Legal Hotline Lawyer. Always check with your managing or designated broker to comply with your brokerage's practices. If you are a WR member with real estate legal questions, email to contact the Legal Hotline Lawyer. If you have questions about reprint rights, RE Magazine or WR app content, please contact Cara McNeil at (360) 943-3100 x 126 or email