As the owner of a rental property, it’s always important to understand your legal responsibilities and tenant rights. One of the most common questions we get asked about is emotional support animal rental laws.
Specifically, how are emotional support animals different from service animals? And what are the rental laws when it comes to allowing/denying emotional support animals in their rental properties? Today, our property management experts are here to clear up the confusion and provide some answers.
Emotional Support Animal Rental Laws
Emotional support animals vs. service animals
Emotional support animals (also known as ESAs) differ from service animals in a few key ways. Service animals perform what is considered a medically necessary service, and must undergo rigorous training and formal registration to do so. From a legal standpoint, service animals are viewed as “medical equipment.”
On the other hand, emotional support animals provide therapeutic companionship and emotional care, which does not require any specific training. Even so, a doctor’s note is required to register them.
Emotional Support Animal Rental Laws
When it comes to tenant’s rights, both service animals and emotional support animals are protected by laws that require landlords to allow them in their rental properties. While service animals are protected by both the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), emotional support animals are only protected by the former.
Under FHA protection, landlords may not reject tenants who have an officially registered emotional support animal. Landlords must also make reasonable accommodations for the animal, even in rental properties that otherwise have a no pets policy. Landlords may not:
- Refuse housing to a tenant because of an emotional support animal
- Require an emotional support animal to undergo specific training
- Ask tenants to pay extra rent or deposits for an emotional support animal
If a tenant wishes to bring an emotional support animal into a rental property that has a no pets policy, the property owner may ask for proof that the animal in question is truly a medically prescribed and registered emotional support animal. That proof usually comes in the form of an ESA housing letter.
An ESA housing letter serves as official documentation for an emotional support animal. The letter should be signed by a mental health professional such as a doctor, psychiatrist, PA or social worker, and should state how long the tenant has been a patient, as well as why the emotional support animal is necessary.
It’s also worth noting that tenants do not need to pay a pet deposit for an emotional support animal. That being said, they are still financially responsible for any damages their animal may cause.
When can a landlord deny an ESA?
There are only a handful of reasons why a landlord may deny a tenant an emotional support animal. While landlords must make reasonable accommodations, an emotional support animal may be denied if:
- The tenant does not supply an ESA housing letter
- The animal is illegal in the state
- The animal is too large for the property
- The animal causes property damage
- The animal is aggressive or threatening to other tenants
One of the easiest ways for property owners to always ensure that they’re keeping up their responsibilities and honoring tenants’ rights is to work with a professional property management company. One of the most important jobs property managers do is always making sure tenants and landlords alike are within their rights.
Contact us today to learn more. Our team of dedicated property management professionals is committed to providing landlord peace of mind.