Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of support animals in the United States alone (and that doesn't include fake ones)? Support animals are different from service animals, and they've been getting more and more popular over the past decade.
As a landlord, you may be wary of emotional support animals, especially if you don't allow pets on your property.
So what are the tenant's rights when it comes to support animals in rentals? What do you have to do? We're here to talk about it.
Read on to learn everything that landlords should know about support animals.
Are Support Animals Service Animals or Pets?
Contrary to popular belief, support animals are neither service animals nor pets.
Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. While emotional support animals also support people with disabilities and mental health concerns, they don't need special training and they usually don't perform specific tasks.
With that in mind, that doesn't mean that they're pets either. Because they still offer support, tenants who meet the definition of "disabled" can still have the support animal as long as they provide proper documentation.
What Information Should a Tenant Provide?
Just because a tenant says that their animal is an emotional support animal, that doesn't mean that it is. You are allowed to ask for information from your tenant if they want to bring an emotional support animal onto your rental property.
Tenants should be able to provide a signed letter from a doctor or mental health professional. The letter is like a "prescription" for the emotional support animal.
You cannot ask about the tenant's medical history or contact the tenant's doctor unless you get explicit permission from the tenant. You can also not ask what mental health concerns the tenant has (though they can willingly give you this information).
Make sure that you're abiding by all housing rights and regulations when you're speaking with your tenant.
Do You Have to Allow Support Animals on Your Property?
In most cases, it's in your best interest to allow support animals on the property. Not doing so can open you up to trouble regarding support animal laws.
If you choose to disallow the support animal, you have to be able to prove that the animal would be an undue burden or put other tenants at risk. If the animal has a history of harming people, you may be able to reject the tenant's request, but the law is on their side.
If you do allow pets on your property already, keep in mind that pet policies shouldn't apply to emotional support animals. You can not charge a pet fee or pet rent (but tenants are still responsible for any damage that their support animal causes).
Support Your Tenants With Support Animals
Support animals might seem confusing at first, but keep this guide in mind next time a tenant requests permission for an emotional support animal.
Remember, your tenant needs the animal to support them through their mental health condition. By allowing the support animal, you're protecting yourself and helping your tenant.
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