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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalAn essential part of owning a Homewood rental property is deciding if you are going to allow tenants to have pets on the property or not. Be that as it may, support animals are not part of the no-pet policy for rental homes. Because of the Fair Housing Act, a tenant, under certain circumstances, can be allowed to keep an animal on the property, regardless of your pet policy. But, as in all rules, there are exceptions. It would be wise to get a good understanding of what the federal laws are, and if they apply to you. This can inform your decision in the event of having to reasonably deny a tenant’s request.

The Fair Housing Act and Support Animals

In general, the Fair Housing Act is a set of laws intended to prevent discrimination against tenants who belong to a protected class. This includes tenants who rely on support animals for either emotional or physical assistance. A significant feature of the Fair Housing Act is that it classifies these animals differently from pets. So your no-pet policy usually isn’t a legal reason to deny a tenant’s request to keep a support animal on the property.

There are two basic types of support animals. Service animals are animals trained to perform specific tasks. A regular example of a service animal is a guide dog that has been trained to support a person with impaired vision. The other type of support animal is assistance or emotional support animal. These animals, though, don’t need specific training for tasks — unlike service animals. Emotional support animals give support to their owners, instead. It could be a cat the helps a person cope with depression and anxiety, or a bird that alerts a deaf person when someone is at their door.

When the Law Applies to You – And When It Doesn’t

For the most part, federal law states that property owners cannot deny a tenant’s request to keep either a service animal or an emotional support animal in their rental home. The law forbids you from charging a tenant a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must give documentation of the support their animal offers. This could be either a service animal certification or a letter from a medical or mental health professional describing the need for the support animal.

Nonetheless, there are still exceptions. The first exemption is the property type. If your rental property is owner-occupied or is owned by a private organization to be enjoyed by its members, the support animal rule does not apply. If you own less than three single-family houses, all of which are managed by you, the FHA does not apply.

Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. Another possible scenario to deny a request is if you prove the animal to be a direct threat to the safety of other tenants on the property. As long as your denial is not based on the animal’s breed or size, you won’t have any problems legally. One possible exemption can also be your insurance carrier. If your insurance provider turns down your landlord insurance policy or charges excessive amounts to grant the support animal on the property, you can successfully argue that you are unable to grant the tenant’s request reasonably.

As a Homewood rental property owner, you have to realize that support animals and their owners have specific legal protections. The federal law has a lot of subtleties; hence, take the initiative to be properly informed. This is key to handling a tenant’s request for a support animal on the property. Learning the details of property management laws can be quite arduous. So, why not hire a company already well-versed in this aspect of the law? Contact us today to learn how we can make your life easier as a rental property owner.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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