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Difference Between Pets, Service, and Support Animals: A Landlord's Guide

Difference Between Pets, Service, and Support Animals: A Landlord's Guide

Imagine you're a landlord about to rent out a cozy apartment. You've just met a potential tenant who mentions they have a pet.

As you start considering the logistics, questions arise: Is it a pet, a service animal, or a support animal? What's the difference? How will each impact your property and responsibilities?

We can help. Let's go through the differences between support animals, pets, and service animals.


Pets are animals kept by individuals primarily for companionship and enjoyment. They do not have specific training or legal protections beyond what is outlined in local laws or lease agreements.

Landlords may charge pet deposits or additional monthly fees to cover any damages caused by tenant pets. These fees should be reasonable and clearly stated in the lease agreement. Make sure to comply with local laws regarding the amount and handling of pet deposits.

You'll need to have a pet policy in place for your properties. Property managers can help you enforce whatever policy you decide on.

Service Animals

Service animals are defined as dogs (and in some cases, miniature horses) that have been specifically trained to perform tasks or do work for people with different disabilities.

Tasks may include taking people who are blind around, alerting Deaf people, pulling someone's wheelchair, warning and helping protect someone who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental health problems to take their medications, or calming a person with PTSD while they have an anxiety attack.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are not classified as pets but instead as working animals.

It's essential to educate property management staff and other tenants about the rights of individuals with disabilities who have service animals.

Try and create an atmosphere of understanding and respect for individuals with service animals to create a supportive environment.

Support Animals

Support animals, including Emotional Support Animals, give comfort, companionship, and support to people with mental health disabilities. Registered ESAs are protected by fair housing laws in Illinois.

Landlords in Illinois can request documentation from a qualified healthcare professional (such as a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist) verifying the tenant's disability and the need for a support animal.

In Illinois, landlords cannot charge additional fees or deposits specifically for support animals. This includes pet deposits, pet rent, or any other charges related to the animal. However, Chicago tenants are responsible for any damages caused by the support animal to the rental property.

When you have any animal living in your rental property, it's important to keep on top of maintenance. Make sure your tenants know they can contact you and report any issues.

Support animals must be well-behaved and under control while on the landlord's property. Landlords can enforce rules regarding noise, cleanliness, and other behavior expectations, just as they would with tenants without support animals.

Support Animals: Understand Today

There's a lot you need to understand about support animals, pets, and service animals. Now that you know the basics, you'll be able to better protect your properties and tenants.

Are you ready to hire property management help in Chicago? Chicago Style Management is owned and operated by Chicagoland residents who know exactly what you need.

Contact us today.