As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to uphold your property to a certain livable standard. In order to reduce the risk of property damage, landlords may not allow pets on their property so that upkeep is easier. However, when emotional support animals are involved, things can get a little tricky. In order to adhere to FHA laws and fulfill your responsibilities as a landlord, you should review what landlords need to know about emotional support animals.
What Qualifies as an ESA?
Many different animals can be emotional support animals, and some of these animals can be unique. ESAs can be cats, dogs, hedgehogs, pigs, and even miniature horses. No matter the species, the purpose of these animals is to provide emotional support as a form of therapeutic treatment for those who are mentally or emotionally disabled. It is important to note that while the FHA protects emotional support animals, they do not require official training and are essentially animals prescribed by mental health practitioners. A tenant’s mental health practitioner must approve and sign an ESA Housing Letter.
What Rights Do Tenants Have?
Even if you have a no-pet policy, you cannot deny a resident the ability to bring their ESA, and dog breed restrictions do not apply. While the tenant must clean up after their animal and pay for damages incurred—either out of pocket or through a security deposit—you cannot charge a pet deposit fee. If there is concern about the validity of the emotional support animal, landlords should make it a point to conduct a pet screening. Even though ESAs are not necessarily pets, a pet screening service can review the documentation to confirm the legality of the ESA and give you better peace of mind.
Can You Ever Deny an ESA?
While it may seem as though landlords have little to no say in the matter, you need to know that there are instances when you can deny an emotional support animal. If a tenant doesn’t have an ESA letter, the ESA bothers other tenants, or the necessary accommodations for the animal would be unreasonable, you can deny the tenant residency. But what qualifies as unreasonable?
If your insurance policy states that certain breeds or species you cannot allow on the property without increasing your insurance rate, this charge would be an unreasonable financial burden. Additionally, if the unit does not have the space to house certain species, such as a horse or an alligator, you can deny the tenant residency.
While it may seem frustrating to rent out to someone with an ESA, keep in mind that your tenant needs this animal to improve their quality of life. Without their ESA, a tenant may very well struggle to function.