As an experienced Airbnb Superhost, I get a lot of logistical questions from newer hosts. One frequently asked question is about guests who have service animals. Do hosts have to allow service animals? Do guests have to prove that it is a service animal and not a pet? Can hosts charge extra fees for service animals? What if a host’s policy says no pets?
99% of hosts are not asking out of discrimination! They want to know how to answer an inquiry without being a jerk.
Legally, there is a significant difference between emotional support and service animals. Business such as restaurants, airlines, and retailers can place restrictions on emotional support animals, but not service animals. Landlords and college dorms are required to allow both.
Airbnb’s terms of service puts both service and emotional support animals under the more general heading of assistance animals. Hosts are required to accept guests with assistance animals, except under limited circumstances. Hosts are not allowed to charge an extra upfront fee for the pets, and are not allowed to ask for documentation or inquire about the nature of the guest’s disability.
If your listing is in a shared space or an apartment building, it is understandable that you may have concerns about hosting assistance animals. Denying a guest based on their need for an assistant animal is discriminating against people with disabilities, and violates Airbnb policy. The hosts who ask questions about assistance animals are not looking to discriminate, rather they are more worried about guests faking the need for an animal so they can bring their pets.
Here are some ways to weed out those guests who are abusing the system:
- Make a clear list of reasons why your Airbnb may not be best suited for an animal. Are there a lot of stairs to get outside? Lack of outdoor space? Other animals on the property? Young children who might accidentally hurt the animal? Proximity to a busy road? Put this list somewhere in the description, and utilize it in the event of an inquiry.
- Make a clear list of reasons why an animal is not best suited for you. Anyone who suffers from severe allergies, either yourself, family member, or close neighbor? Young children who might be scared of animals? Other more fragile animals on the property? Also put this list somewhere in your description to refer to later if necessary.
- If a guest reads your description and inquires about bringing an assistance animal, ask the following questions: Is the assistance animal required due to a disability? What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
- If the guest has answered the questions above, it is likely that they actually have an assistance animal as opposed to just a pet. It would still be wise of to set boundaries. “Our guests are not allowed to bring pets to our listing, as it is not animal friendly due to X, Y, and/or Z. However, we do not discriminate against guests that have assistance animals, and would love to host you as long as you agree to the rules set forth by Airbnb official policy: “A host may ask a guest to remove a service animal if: the animal is out of control and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it, or the animal is not housebroken. Note that given their role in providing service or emotional support, assistance animals should not be left alone at a listing.” In addition, Airbnb also requires that you pay for any damages caused by your animal. Please message me back within X hours indicating that you will abide by Airbnb’s rules, and I will gladly accept your request! (Or you may opt to cancel the request if it is an instant book) Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!”
*If you have to ask a guest to leave because of any of the above, you need to make it clear that you are only asking the animal to leave and that the guest is welcome to stay.
We allow pets and service animals in all of our private listings. Since we have been doing this for over 3 years, I can safely say that pets really aren’t that big of a deal. The worst thing that has happened in three years has been an extra cleaning fee or two due to excessive pet hair, which we have successfully charged to the guest. Honestly, kids are usually way worse than pets.
You cannot deny a guest because of an assistance animal. However, as a host you have the right to deny any guest as long as you have a legitimate reason. For example, you might have family coming into town and forgot to block those specific dates. Some other reasons we deny guests are if their profile is incomplete, they are asking for early check in or late check out, or they have not answered our specific questions about their trip. Airbnb is zero tolerance regarding discrimination, so make sure you are in line with their current policy.
In summary, Airbnb requires that hosts allow both emotional support and service animals. Guests don’t have to show any documentation for them, or alert you ahead of time. Having pets stay in your listing isn’t really a big deal, but if you have a good reason why you don’t allow pets then include it in your listing description. You can weed out fakers by asking two specific questions and requiring them to read and agree with Airbnb’s official policy.
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