LACONIA — A 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division judge ruled Thursday that a local landlord cannot evict a couple from their apartment because the cat they own is a "service" cat for their 15-year-old niece.
H & P Apartments has long had a no-pets policy. One of the owners said recently that they have never allowed pets because of noise and damage concerns.
When they found out recently that one of their tenants had a cat, they started an eviction process but Judge Jim Carroll ruled that because a mental health clinician at Genesis Behavior Health recommended the girl have a cat "in order to decrease depression and anxiety symptoms in the home" there would be no eviction.
In his two-sentence decision, Carroll wrote that the defendant, in this case, the girl's uncle, "has presented sufficient evidence that the cat is a service pet for his niece who is a legal resident of the apartment. Eviction denied."
According to the Disability Rights Center – New Hampshire, the Fair Housing Act of 1988 and the New Hampshire Human Rights Laws (RSA 354-A) protect the rights of people to have support animals in their homes, even when the landlord has a no-pets policy.
However, there are some rules that apply to getting an exemption from a no-pets police including that the person has a disability, that the person needs the animal to function and there must be a relationship between the applicants ability to function and the assistance the animal provides.
The Disability Rights Center's on-line bulletin also says that a tenant with a disability exemption animal can not be a nuisance to other tenants and if the animal causes any damage the tenant is responsible for any costs associated with it or for cleaning costs.
The bulletin said a tenant should make a written request for a service animal for a "reasonable accommodation" and that a note from a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or other mental health professional is required.
The landlord is not allowed to ask for an additional "pet" deposit.
A representative from H & P apartments declined comment saying he was consulting with his attorney about Judge Carroll's decision.
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