Emotional support animals are pets that support a psychiatric disability by providing comfort and often doing specific tasks for the person. There are around 200,000 emotional support animals in the USA.
When it comes to support and service animals in rental properties, there are different rules than there are for your average pet. It's important to become aware of these rules so you can make educated decisions about allowing them on your property.
Read on to find out everything you need to know.
Do I Have to Allow Emotional Support Animals?
In some businesses, there has been a move against emotional support animals. Most airlines, for example, no longer consider them essential and people aren't allowed to take them on the flight. In that instance, the support animal laws are the same as they are for any pet.
So what about rental properties?
Because of the Fair Housing Act which requires landlords to make "reasonable accommodations" for any disability, you should allow emotional support animals. The exception to this is if the request is entirely unreasonable or they're causing damage or disturbance for the neighbors.
How Do I Protect the Property?
If you're worried about tenants abusing the Fair Housing Act and claiming their pet is an emotional support animal when they may actually be an untrained pet, there are a few things you can do.
You cannot charge a pet fee for an ESA, so be careful of that. You can, however, charge a security deposit that can encompass any damage done by the animal.
If you're having serious doubts about the animal in question, you may also ask for proof that they are an ESA (such as a letter from a doctor or a therapist). You may not, however, ask any questions about the person's disability and they're not required to tell you. The letter should simply state that the animal in question does support them.
What About Service Animals?
Service animals are a completely different beast and whether you're allowing pets or not, there's no question that you have to allow a service animal — it doesn't matter if you don't want it on your property or believe the request to be unreasonable.
Much like emotional support animals, you can ask for proof that the animal in question is a service animal, but you may not inquire as to the nature of the tenant's disability.
Good news, though. Your tenant is still liable for any damage their service animal causes to the property, so don't worry about that.
What Happens When Denying Support Animals?
If the animal in question was not a prescribed support animal and you had good reasons for denial (for example, a dog with a bite history), then you don't need to worry.
However, if you deny a legitimate support or service animal on your rental property, you could be fined and that fine will be even higher if you've violated the Fair Housing Act Before.
Make Sure to Educate Yourself
Make sure to educate yourself on the laws surrounding support animals and make reasonable decisions and accommodations and you don't have to worry.
Remember, support and service animals are very well-trained, so the destruction of property shouldn't be a huge concern.
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