A dog may be “a man’s best friend,” but dogs and cats are not necessarily a landlord’s best friend. Too often, pets scratch up the floors you just replaced, chew up the carpet, and leave odors that are hard to mask with air fresheners. Property management companies in New Haven know that pets can be a hassle, but they can also mean greater profits and lower vacancy rates. Some landlords allow pets on their property and others don’t, and that decision is up to them. However, there’s a huge difference between allowing pets and allowing support animals. Allowing pets is optional, allowing service animals isn’t. Property owners must stay in compliance with all the local, state, and federal laws that specifically concern support animals if they want to stay out of legal trouble.
What is a Support Animal?
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers the following support or assistance animals:
- Service animal: a dog that has been trained to perform disability-related tasks for the benefit of a person with a physical or mental disability such as guiding a person who is blind or pulling a wheelchair.
- Psychiatric service animals: these animals help their handlers manage mental and emotional disabilities. They can interrupt self-harming behaviors, remind handlers to take medication, check spaces for intruders, or provide calming pressure during anxiety or panic attacks
- Seizure alert animals: let their handlers know of impending seizures, and may also guard their handlers during seizure activity
- Allergen alert animals: let their handlers know of foods or other substances that could be dangerous (such as peanuts).
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
Property management companies in New Haven should know that under Fair Housing guidelines, emotional support animals are also considered assistance animals. In certain cases, mental health professionals will suggest an emotional support animal as part of a larger medical treatment plan for patients. Emotional support animals can provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias. These animals are not specially trained to assist people with disabilities. Many people enjoy the comfort and steadiness emotional support animals bring to their lives. For instance, according to ABC News, “Airlines for America, an airline trade association, estimates that from 2016 to 2017 the number of emotional support animals aboard U.S. commercial flights grew from 481,000 to 751,000. This breaks is a 57% increase in the number of ESAs carried in jet cabins per day.”
Property owners must allow both service and assistance animals, and emotional support animals to stay in compliance.
How One Service Dog Changed a Life
Service animals can really make a difference in the lives of the people they help. One man named Ed had both Chronic Fatigue and PTSD, which was hard to handle physically and emotionally. He experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression, stopped working, slept a lot, and rarely left his home. When Ed’s doctor suggested he think about getting a service dog, Ed was matched with the service dog Cinder in 2012 through the organization Canine Partners for Life. Cinder helps Ed physically and emotionally. She knows how to pick up items off the ground, open drawers and doors, and carry things for Ed. With Cinder to help, Ed’s fatigue is lessened and he has more energy for the fun things in life. Cinder helped create a regular routine for Ed so he has a reason to get out of bed every morning. Because of his service dog, Ed’s life has been improved drastically.
Property Management Companies in New Haven Cannot Discriminate Against Support Animals
Connecticut laws require landlords to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing accommodations against those who use service animals or emotional support animals. A landlord cannot charge a person with a disability for their service animal or require a pet deposit. A service or support animal is not considered a pet and should not be treated as such. If a person originally signed a contract and did not have an emotional support animal, but then requires one later while they are still under contract, as a landlord you have to allow it.
Sometimes it can be tough to tell if an animal is for emotional support or trained to help with another need. As the landlord, you may be tempted to ask questions or require documentation regarding the animal. But Fair Housing Laws state that you can only ask ask two questions if the need for the assistance animal is not obvious:
- Is the animal required because of a disability
- What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
If you don’t like pit bulls, and normally do not allow them on your property as a pet, you cannot discriminate against a renter that has a pit bull as a service animal. You cannot ask the animal to demonstrate its abilities or ask for a note from your tenant’s doctor proving their disability. You can charge a fee if the assistance animal causes damage to your property, but you cannot ask for money upfront.
Responsibilities of the Tenant
Real Property Management Southern Connecticut is considered a leader among property Management Companies. In New Haven, landlords can count on RPM Southern Connecticut to to provide superior customer service that saves property owners time, money, and hassle. Landlords should know that their tenants who require support animals also have responsibilities they must fulfill. The ADA states that handlers are primarily responsible for the care and supervision of their service animal. Any unacceptable behavior exhibited by the service animal such as uncontrolled barking, jumping on other people, or running away from the handler does not have to be tolerated. If the animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, it can be removed from the premises.
As a landlord you are not responsible for cleaning up the animal’s waste. That falls to the handler. All support animals must also have a leash, tether, or some other means by which they can be controlled by the handler. The animal must be housebroken and vaccinated.
A Better Choice for Property Owners
We know there are a lot of property management companies in New Haven. Pick the property management company that can keep you in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws, including those concerning support animals. At Real Property Management Southern Connecticut, we offer routine property inspections, provide reliable maintenance, give landlords access to online reporting, conduct a thorough tenant screening process, and so much more! Maximize your profits and minimize your headaches with our in-house legal team and professional staff there for your every need! Give us a call today!