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Short-Term Rental Hosts: Does Your Property Qualify as a Public Accommodation and Can You Refuse Animals?

July 25, 2023

Along with sunny weather, the summer season brings an opportune time to travel. With the rise of untraditional short-term rental options, such as Airbnb, comes many inquiries from clients regarding short-term rental properties.

Public Accommodations

A short-term rental is deemed a public accommodation based on a case-by-case basis. Specialists of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) commonly express that if the rental is akin to a hotel or inn (off-site management, linen/cleaning services, third party booking services, strictly rented in a commercial sense, etc.) it is very likely a public accommodation. Alternatively, the ADA does not cover owner-occupied establishments renting five or fewer rooms. Thus, if the proprietor of the rental lives on-site (renting out a single room of their basement, for example) it is NOT a public accommodation.

Service Animals

The Ohio Administrative Code (O.A.C.) §4112-5-02(C) defines an animal assistant as, “any animal which aids the disabled.” The term “animal assistant” covers service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs). O.A.C §4112-5-06(A)(4) makes it illegal to deny any disabled person the attendance of an animal assistant in a place of public accommodation. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission has adopted the rule promulgated under the ADA, which states that in places of public accommodation, an animal assistant must be trained to perform a specific task. The ADA refers to these animals as “service animals.” This effectively means that places of public accommodation can deny access to ESAs but not to service animals, as ESAs are not technically trained to perform a task.

The individual in charge of the public accommodation may only ask two questions of a guest: (1) whether the animal is required because of a disability, and (2) what task(s) the animal has been trained to perform. Additionally, that individual in charge of the public accommodation cannot ask for documentation supporting the need for the animal nor can they ask for proof of training. The proprietor of the public accommodation can only ask for the animal to be removed from the premises if the animal becomes threatening, hostile, aggressive, unusually disruptive, is not housebroken or if the animal’s owner does not take effective action to control the animal.

Finally, O.A.C §4112-5-06(A)(4) forbids a proprietor of a public accommodation from requiring a disabled guest to pay a fee to have their animal assistant on the premises. However, as long as the business charges customers in general for damages caused by the customer, then the business is free to charge for additional damage caused by the service animal. It is also worth noting that Airbnb’s company polices essentially mirror Ohio and federal law outlined above. Airbnb allows guests to be accompanied by a service animal and does not allow for a host to charge extra for the presence of a service animal. Hosts are only allowed to ask the same two questions as above. Guests are not permitted to leave their service animal alone at the listing, plus the animal must be housebroken and under control. Lastly, hosts are permitted to charge extra (a pet fee) or deny the presence of an ESA. Walter Haverfield’s attorneys provide thorough legal support and guidance to every client with concerns regarding their rental properties.

Alicia E. Zambelli is a Partner at Walter Haverfield. She is a recognized leader in the practice of real estate law and can be reached at or (614) 246-2280.

Jacob A. Re is a law clerk with Walter Haverfield’s Real Estate Group. He can be reached at or (216) 916-2502.