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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalA vital decision that every Fairfield rental property owner needs to make is if tenants will be allowed to have pets on the property or not. No-pet policies for rental homes, however, do not apply to support animals. Through the Fair Housing Act, a tenant may be allowed to keep an animal on the property, regardless of pet policy. Although, keep in mind that there are certain exceptions to this. Take some time to acquaint yourself with the federal laws, and if they apply to you. This can be useful, especially when you have 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 really important point made by the Fair Housing Act that you should remember 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 usual example of a service animal is a guide that has been trained to aid a person with impaired vision. The other type of support animal is assistance or emotional support animal. While service animals receive special training, these animals don’t because they don’t need to be trained to do what they are meant to do. Instead, emotional support animals give certain benefits to their owners. The support can come in the form of a cat that helps soothe a person’s struggle with depression and anxiety. It could even be a bird that helps indicate to a deaf person that a person 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. You are restricted from charging your tenant a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must submit 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.

But, there are certain exceptions to this. The first 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. The FHA doesn’t apply if you own less than three single-family houses and manage them 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. Another exemption can come in the form of your insurance carrier. If your insurance provider rejects your landlord insurance policy or chooses to bill excessive amounts to authorize the support animal on the property, it’s possible to successfully argue that you are unable to grant the tenant’s request reasonably.

Support animals and their owners have specific legal protections that, as a Fairfield rental property owner, you must embrace. So, if you want to be able to thoroughly handle a tenant’s request for a support animal on the property, it would do you well to know what the federal law has to say about it. 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.