TWIN FALLS • What is the biggest conflict between landlords and tenants in Idaho? Pets.
According to Idaho Legal Aid attorney Karen McCarthy, if a doctor has deemed a pet a support animal, any manager who rents three or more units has to allow the animal.
“If a person has a support animal, there can be no pet deposit charged,” McCarthy said. “You can’t prohibit them. You can’t charge anything for them. Landlords have every right to enforce behavior of the animal.”
Legal aids and housing advocates will be educating people on the Fair Housing Act next week in half-day sessions at the College of Southern Idaho and Burley City Hall.
According to Zoe Olson, Director of Intermountain Fair Housing Council, it doesn’t take much to get an animal declared a support animal.
“Any professional, relative or close friend can declare an animal a support animal. A landlord cannot inquire about the severity of a situation, but they can require a verification of the need. It doesn’t even have to be a doctor that deems the animal a support animal, but it has to be a reasonable request. There still can’t be damage to the property.”
McCarthy said she uses her mom’s dog Oliver as an example.
“My mom told me one day that the only reason she could get out of bed is because Oliver needed her,” McCarthy said. “Oliver then just immediately became a support animal and Oliver wasn’t trained for anything. Oliver was vital to my mother’s existence.”
Idaho Legal Aid’s goal is to prevent lawsuits from happening, McCarthy said, because by the time someone sues, people have already been hurt.
“I always tell landlords, sell the property. Don’t decide who is right for this property. Let the people decide what’s right for the property. You let them pick where they want to live.”
McCarthy has handled many lawsuits in the Magic Valley. One she recalls involved a dog that was trained to run outside and bark when the animal detected that its owner was having a seizure.
“With their sense of smell, this dog could detect an oncoming seizure,” McCarthy said. “When it smelled this oncoming seizer it was trained to bark outside and alert someone. The landlord got mad and told the people the dog wasn’t allowed to get out of the house and bark.“
Although McCarthy said racial discrimination among lenders is less of a problem now than in the past, she said Hispanics and African Americans are charged higher interest rates than people who are white. When asked if this is a problem in the Magic Valley she said, “My understanding is that yes it is.“
Anyone who has anything to do with apartments, rental houses, lending, or property management are encouraged to attend the free presentation of the Fair Housing Act. The presentation will be given on Monday, April 22 at the Herrett Center at CSI from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Tuesday, April 23 at the Burley City Hall from noon to 5 p.m.
To learn more about fair housing, call the Fair Housing Hotline at 1-866-345-0106.