If you’re a landlord, you should familiarize yourself with federal Fair Housing laws regarding Emotional Support Animals. We touched on the subject of Emotional Support Animals briefly in a recent blog post about allowing pets in your rental units. The first thing you should know is that as far as the federal Fair Housing laws under the Fair Housing Act are concerned, an Emotional Support Animal is not a pet. An animal registered as an Emotional Support Animal is a medical tool.
Emotional Support Animals And Pet-Related Fees
Since and Emotional Support Animal isn’t a pet, it’s important for landlords to understand that tenants with a registered animal can’t be charged pet-related fees. These animals help people who have emotional or mental disabilities and these disabilities afford certain rights.
Emotional Support Animals And No-Pet Policies
Even if you have a very strict no-pet policy it’s considered discriminatory to not allow one of these registered animals to live in your unit. As a medical tool, it’d be viewed as though you didn’t allow a person to bring their wheelchair into your unit.
Does This Apply To All Landlords?
Your rental property or rental unit might be exempt from these rules. You’d be exempt from these rules if you’re exempt from complying with the Fair Housing Act in general. Here’s an excerpt from Certapet that explains if your rental is exempt:
“There are very few properties that are exempt from these laws — a building with 4 or fewer units, one of which is owner-occupied; single-family homes where the owner does not use a real estate agent to buy or rent the property, and the owner owns less than three single family houses; and housing owned by organizations or private clubs that is used for members.”
What Is The Definition Of An Emotional Support Animal?
The broader technical term used by HUD under which Emotional Support Animals fall is “assistance animal” and it’s defined as the following:
An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.
What Other Rules Do Landlords Need To Know About Assistance Animals?
Landlords may never ask to see sensitive medical records or a person’s medical history as proof. This is in violation of Fair Housing standards and against the law. You may only request documentation that the tenant requires the assistance animal.
Landlords must make reasonable accommodations. For example, you can’t be required to build a fence for the animal’s safety, but you are required to waive all pet fees.
What Type Of Animals Can Be Assistance Animals?
Assistance animals are usually dogs, but they can be other animals like cats or birds.
Can Landlords Refuse Any Animal?
Landlords can deny the request for an assistance animal if the specific animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation. Landlords can also deny the request for an assistance animal the specific assistance animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others assuming that the risk can’t be reduced or eliminated by another
reasonable accommodation. You can’t deny an animal based on breed or size. You can’t base the risk assessment on speculation or concern, only on actual evidence based on the particular animal itself.
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