When it comes to running a short-term rental business, hosts have the freedom to decide whether to make their rental pet friendly for all their guests. But, accommodating service animals is a different ball game. One that should be handled according to the Vrbo service animal policy.
Hosts need to be fully aware of Vrbo’s policy to stay informed about what their rights are. They’ll also know what is expected from them when hosting guests with disabilities that rely on a service dog.
Here are the most crucial frequently asked questions answered, so that you are not left guessing:
Cutting right down to it, Vrbo requires their hosts to allow service animals when a guest requires it. This policy applies regardless of whether or not a host’s rental property is pet-friendly. This is because service animals are not categorized as pets.
Technically, Vrbo specifies that this policy is for hosts with properties located in the United States and U.S. Territories. But, Vrbo also emphasizes that they are an “inclusive marketplace built on a foundation of trust, safety, and respect”. This means they encourage all hosts to allow service animals at their vacation home irrespective of if it’s a pet-friendly accommodation.
Vrbo defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks for individuals to assist with a disability.
These tasks could be to:
Only service dogs are allowed under Vrbo’s service animal policy. While some regions may include other animals as assistance animals, a service dog is the most widely accepted and, as such, is accommodated by the policy.
So, a vacation rental owner or property manager does not need to worry about trying to accommodate all different sorts of animals. They can expect guests with disabilities to only bring service dogs to their properties.
An emotional support animal is not the same as a true service animal. The role of an emotional support animal is to provide calming support and comfort to an emotionally distressed pet owner. Emotional support animals do not have the duty of being specifically trained for particular disabilities like true service dogs are.
According to Wikipedia, “an animal that provides relief to individuals with “psychiatric disability through companionship.” Emotional support animals may be any type of pet (not just, e.g., dogs), and are not recognized as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Because emotional support animals do not qualify as true service animals, a vacation homeowner or property manager is not forced to accommodate reservations with emotional support animals.
Vacation rental property owners will have to discuss these special requests with their guests to determine if they can make reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals. This may be a no-brainer if your short-term rental property is pet-friendly already. But it can also be determined on a case-by-case basis or can be stated in the house rules or pet policy.
As a vacation rental owner or property manager, it is understandable that you would want to see some form of verification that a guest’s service dog is a trained assistance animal — especially if your vacation rental is not usually pet friendly.
However, service animal owners are not obligated to have any documentation for a service animal, or any items verifying their service dogs’ training or certification.
Though, a host is allowed to ask their potential guests reasonable questions to ensure they have enough information about the assistance animal. These questions include:
It’s always a smart idea to know how policies on OTAs like Vrbo relate to official laws and regulations. This way, you can stay informed about your limitations and rights as a vacation rental owner. Here’s how Vrbo’s assistance animal policies correlate to disability and vacation rental regulations and laws:
Vrbo’s policy on service dogs does not take any specific local laws into account. Regardless, Vrbo requires compliance with their policy in addition to the laws, HOA restrictions, or breed restrictions that might be in place at your vacation rental.
Of course, hosts need to do extra due diligence to ensure they do not violate any local laws that may apply to their property too.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities against discrimination. This law extends to service animals too.
The ADA requires any place of public accommodation to allow assistance animals. Technically, the act defines a place of public accommodation as an inn, hotel, or motel, or a lodging offering short-term rentals that operate similarly to a hotel. So, vacation rentals that operate differently from a hotel may be able to argue their way around these regulations.
However, Vrbo’s policy to accommodate service animals further strengthens the guidelines of this Act and gives hosts an incentive to follow it too.
Similar to the ADA, the Fair Housing Act is a federal law that aims to discourage discrimination against a person’s disability when it comes to the sale, rental, or financing of housing.
While this federal law echoes the ADA and Vrbo’s policy, it does not outright apply to vacation rental properties.
Vrbo makes it clear that assistance animals are not pets. Since this is the case, you are not allowed to charge a pet fee, pet cleaning fee, nor ask for a higher security deposit for a service animal.
You can, however, charge pet fees for emotional support animals, if you decide to accommodate them at your rental property. This pet fee will have to be discussed with guests who would like to bring emotional support animals with them so that they are aware of the extra fees.
Individuals with a service animal cannot be charged pet fees of any kind. Service animal laws protect
Guests with disabilities are not legally required to inform you of their service animals. But it is a smart idea to encourage open communication with your guests so that you can make reasonable accommodations for them.
The best way to do this is to mention in your listings, house rules, or pet policy that guests are welcome to communicate all necessary information about their service animals before check-in so that you can make arrangements for them.
While you are free to add information to your listing describing the suitability of your rental property for accommodating a person’s disability, the ultimate decision is up to the guests themselves if your place is suitable or not.
Often, when a guest who relies on a service dog decides to book your property, they don’t need much extra to be done. They will not expect hosts to make too much of a fuss for them and are most likely capable of taking care of their own needs.
For the most part, service animals should be allowed to go wherever guests are allowed. The role of a service dog is to assist its owner with physical support in their daily tasks. Restricting where the service dog is allowed to be on your property will get in the way of them helping their owners.
However, there are exceptions. Vrbo allows hosts to exclude a service dog from swimming pools. If an area could be dangerous for service dogs in some way, this may also need to be communicated to your guests.
One of the major reasons why rental property owners may be uncomfortable with having service animals in their homes is because of pet allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 3 in 10 Americans have allergic reactions to cats and dogs.
If you or your family members have severe allergies to animals that could cause health issues, and you use your vacation home for personal use at certain times in the year, it is reasonable to state on your listing that your property does not accommodate service animals for this reason.
Hosts should have peace of mind that service dogs are exceptionally well trained. They will not be running wild all through your home and damaging your property.
Though, if an assistance animal does happen to cause damage to your property, the process would be the same as if a guest were to cause damage, i.e. you’d be able to deduct the cost of damage from their security deposit.
Also, if you have a good insurance policy in place, this damage could be taken care of as part of your insurance cover.
While highly unlikely, if a service dog causes major damage to your home and the animal’s owner is not doing anything to stop it, you are entitled to ask that the service dog be removed from the property. Keep in mind, though, that you should still give your guest the option to stay at your rental property without their service dog.
It’s important to reiterate that Vrbo’s policies are to protect the best interests of their hosts and their guests. The assistance animal policy ensures that hosts know what to expect in the cases of a guest with a disability and to prevent guests from facing discrimination.
By signing up to be a Vrbo host, you are agreeing to all their policies. This includes their policy on service dogs. Therefore, if you violate the policy, there will be certain actions that Vrbo can take. Depending on how severe the case is, Vrbo can:
For guests who misuse the assistance animal policy, Vrbo may also ban them from using the platform.
If you’d like to make a great impression on guests with service dogs — and give them a reason to give you a glowing review — you can always add a few custom touches to your rental.
Another perk of keeping open communication in your listing is that you can be informed in time when a guest will be traveling with a service dog.
Although guests will not be expecting you to completely upend your vacation rental homes to accommodate them, reasonable adjustments can be made to make their stay more enjoyable. Some ideas for how to do this is to:
When preparing to host a guest with a service dog, the most important thing you can do is get your guest communication and guest experience right. This way, you will be able to stay informed of your guest’s needs, and they will feel assured and welcomed by your attention to detail.
Taking advantage of vacation rental software like iGMS is the easiest way to perfect your communication strategy and streamline your business with the help of our award-winning automation tools.
With iGMS, you will be able to:
About the Author
Callan Riddles is the Content and Social Media Specialist at iGMS. Callan has a passion for finding new ways to help vacation rental businesses thrive. In her free time, she loves to travel, read, and experience all the new things that life has to offer.
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