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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalOne significant choice that all Fountain rental property owners have to make is whether or not they are going to permit their tenants to have pets on the property or not. However, even if you have a no-pet policy for your rental homes, that policy doesn’t include support animals. 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. Although, keep in mind that there are certain exceptions to this. This is why it’s essential for you to know what the federal laws are if they apply to your situation, and when it’s reasonable to 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. One facet of the Fair Housing Act that you should always bear in mind 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. Not quite the same as service animals, these support animals don’t need particular training for what they are supposed to do. Alternatively, emotional support animals offer other benefits to their owners. For example, a cat that helps lighten the load of a person’s depression and anxiety or, a bird that is trained to notify a deaf person that someone is at the 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. It is unlawful for you to charge 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.

Yet again, there are some exceptions to this rule. The first exemption is the property type. If your rental property is owner-occupied or is owned by a private organization that makes use of the property for its members, the support animal rule does not apply. And, the FHA doesn’t apply if your rental properties are less than three single-family houses, all being managed by yourself.

Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. Another ground for denying a request is if you can prove that the animal of the tenant is a direct threat to the safety of others on the property. However, the animal’s breed or size must not be the legal basis for your denial. Insurance carriers can also be another exemption. If your insurance provider declines you a landlord insurance policy or costs excessive amounts to permit the support animal on the property, you might successfully argue that you are unable to grant the tenant’s request reasonably.

Support animals and their owners have specific legal protections that you must comprehend as a Fountain rental property owner. 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 property management laws can be very taxing on your part. So, why not just 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.