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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalEvery Dawsonville rental property owner has to decide whether or not tenants are going to be allowed to have pets on the property. Be that as it may, support animals are not part of the no-pet policy for rental homes. Regardless of your pet policy, under the Fair Housing Act, tenants can be allowed to have an animal on the property based on certain grounds. But, as in all rules, there are exceptions. When is it reasonable to deny a tenant’s request? To answer this, you have to know what the federal laws are, and if they even apply to you.

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 good example of a service animal would be a guide dog — one that has been trained to provide assistance to 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. An emotional support animal supplies a unique set of benefits to its 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 prohibited from charging the tenant a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must present 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. First of all, property type. If your rental property is owner-occupied or is owned by a private organization to be used primarily 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 instance when you can reasonably deny a request is if you prove the tenant’s animal to be a direct threat to others on the property. The legal basis for the denial, though, cannot be based on the animal’s breed or size. Another exemption can come in the form of your insurance carrier. If your insurance provider dismisses your landlord insurance policy or estimates excessive amounts to accept the support animal on the property, that could be a successful argument to reasonably deny the tenant’s request.

As a Dawsonville rental property owner, you have to realize that support animals and their owners have specific legal protections. So, if you want to be able to handle a situation where a tenant requests for a support animal on the property, best to get a good handle on federal laws! 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.