Service animal brings illegal rent hike
Question: I use a service animal for my disability. Because of that, my landlord says he is going to increase my rent and my security deposit. Is that legal? Can he do that?
Answer: According to Cynthia Thomas, Legal Aid's fair-housing project manager, no. Landlords and other housing providers cannot treat disabled tenants differently from nondisabled tenants or residents. Charging you more rent, or increasing your security deposit, because you use a service animal is a form of illegal disability discrimination under fair-housing laws.
Q: I use a wheelchair and live in a condominium where the parking is provided on a "first-come, first-served" basis. Can I ask for a reserved space that is close to the building entrance?
A: From Cynthia: Yes. Ask your property manager and/or the condo association board of directors for an exception to the "first-come, first-served" parking policy as a reasonable accommodation for your disability. Keep in mind, however, that you might be asked to verify that you have a disability and might also have to explain why the reserved parking space is necessary for your particular disability.
Q: I have to move but I have a pet, and no matter how hard I've tried, I can't seem to find any pet-friendly rentals. Is it legal for landlords to discriminate against pet owners?
A: From Cynthia: Yes, it is legal. "No pets" policies are common in Hawaii, and, as mentioned, they are legal. However, a "no pets" policy cannot prevent disabled persons from keeping service animals, such as guide dogs or hearing alert animals. And remember: You can't just say you need a service animal; the landlord might require a doctor's note or similar proof.
April is National Fair Housing Month. If you have any questions about your fair-housing rights or feel that your fair-housing rights have been violated, please call the Fair Housing Enforcement Program at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. On Oahu call 527-8024. On the neighbor islands call (866) 527-3247.
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. For information call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or by U.S. mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.