Iowa City Landlords

September 1, 2020

A recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling on how landlords and property managers should navigate whether or not to allow emotional support animals in pet-free buildings has left many questions unanswered.

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, Iowa City’s Office of Equity & Human Rights released a memo detailing what the ruling has clarified and what has yet to be decided by the legal system.

In July, the Iowa Supreme Court concluded that a landlord had to pay damages of one month’s rent to an Iowa City tenant who has a severe allergy to pet dander after the landlord allowed another tenant to live with an emotional support dog despite the building’s no-pets policy.

The case was first dismissed in small claims court before a district court said the landlord shouldn’t have allowed the second tenant to have the support animal. The district court also dismissed the case because the law was “not clear.”

The tenant with the allergy then appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. At the time of the ruling, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen emphasized that their decision was “not a one-size-fits-all test.” “If a landlord allows an ESA, the landlord may be faced with legal action from existing tenants, as the landlord was in this case,” reads the memo. “If the landlord refuses to allow the ESA, the landlord may be faced with enforcement action from HUD.”

The Human Rights investigator who wrote the memo, Kristin Watson, said that this second scenario could lead to further clarification. If someone is faced with action from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the landlord could use the Iowa City case as defense, Watson wrote.

In that scenario, the memo reads, they could ask for a declaratory judgment about what should be done.

Additionally, the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling said that because the tenant with the allergy was first to sign the lease, she had priority over the tenant who signed after. The second tenant later requested the emotional support animal.

The ruling doesn’t decide how severe the existing tenant’s allergy has to be to allow the “first in time” rule to apply.

The ruling does say medical documentation is required, but doesn’t specify the level of severity of the allergy needed to take priority over the emotional support animal, according to the memo.

Watson also writes in the memo that the Federal Housing Act was written when the term “handicap” was still acceptable. The Iowa Supreme Court references the act in its ruling.

Watson says that although the court uses the term because the law was written with it, the word is considered offensive to people with disabilities and should not be used unless when directly quoting the Federal Housing Act. Finally, it’s important to note that the Iowa Supreme Court ruling only applies to emotional support animals, not Americans with Disabilities Act service animals.

  • Most Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    January 8, 2021

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    January 8, 2021

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    January 8, 2021

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    January 7, 2021

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    January 7, 2021

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more

    The Right Rescue Dog

    January 7, 2021

    If your New Year’s resolution is to add a canine family member, good for you. Somewhere out there is the perfect puppy or adult dog for your family. You have a lot of things to think about when you begin to look for that new family member, puppy or dog? Large or small? Purebred or […]

    Read more

    Police Dog Attack

    January 7, 2021

    A resolution headed to the Duluth City Council on Monday could put to rest a lawsuit filed by Teri Lynn Ehlers, an employee of the Patch Motel, who was bitten by a Duluth police dog named Oakley. Former Duluth Police Officer Marc Johnson was a registered guest of the Warroad establishment May 28, 2018, when […]

    Read more

    PAWS With A Cause

    January 7, 2021

    Pebble Hill Plantation and the Thomas County Public Library are pleased to announce the upcoming Enlightening Bites program, “PAWS With a Cause,” on Friday, January 8, 2021 at noon in the Flipper Room of the Library. The program is being presented by Jeri Anderson, field representative. Anderson is recently retired from the City of Monticello, […]

    Read more

    Police Canine Team

    January 7, 2021

    Kingston Police revealed in a news release late Wednesday afternoon that they’ve been keeping a four-legged secret for roughly three months. The force announced it added a second canine unit, with the arrival of police service dog Dak this past October. He is working with Const. Jeff Dickson, while police service dog Bask is working […]

    Read more

    K9s For Warriors

    January 7, 2021

    K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that provides military veterans suffering from severe PTSD, traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma with service animals, recently changed the name of its main campus to honor its leader and founder Shari Duval. Duval began K9s For Warriors in 2011 after her son returned from two tours in […]

    Read more

    More Recent News