When presented with their first emotional support animal letter, landlords may be caught off guard, so here are some options to consider.
Landlords may not anticipate many challenges until they face them in reality when owning a rental property. Some landlords may not think about certain kinds of insurance until it’s too late, or value community outreach until tenants leave online reviews.
When landlords receive their first ESA letter, they often feel caught off guard.
Many communities, including those that do not allow pets, are home to individuals who need support pets to function. While determining what is and is not allowed under each lease, landlords may have to rethink their rules and guidelines.
Here are all the things landlords need to know about emotional support animals. When tenants and landlords brush up on federal guidelines, the options available to them will become clear, and the conversation will become easier for everyone.
Tenants Need a Signed Letter
When landlords are unfamiliar with emotional-support animals, they may wonder whether some tenants are circumventing no-pet rules when they don’t actually need them. The letter will indicate that they’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness that requires a companion and have seen a licensed mental-health professional.
A landlord cannot contact a health-care provider without the tenant’s written and signed consent. Alternatively, the doctor may leave a note inviting landlords to contact him or her with any questions or concerns. Even if the tenant provides written consent, rental management cannot ask for the tenant’s medical history during that call.
Pets don’t count as emotional support animals
Due to a no-pet policy, some landlords may have difficulty accommodating an emotional support animal.
In accordance with guidelines from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), assistance animals do not qualify as pets since they provide service, tasks, or assistance to people with disabilities.
Pets must be accommodated when a landlord receives a verified letter from a medical professional, regardless of whether the animal is a dog, cat, or another kind.
Tenants Have Rights
An emotional-support animal is allowed as long as the tenant meets the definition of being disabled. Landlords must adapt their policies and services when they need one. Communities that do not allow pets are included in this category.
In spite of the fact that a tenant has already signed a lease and agreed not to have any animals in their unit, they can still bring home an emotional-support animal if it is verified. Nullifying a lease because a person requires a service animal or rejecting a potential candidate because of their disability is illegal.
Liability Insurance May Increase
Due to the fact that emotional-support animals aren’t considered pets, they aren’t subject to restrictions on breeds and weights. People in need have one less barrier to worry about, but landlords may have some concerns.
Landlords may face higher liability insurance rates or lose their policy altogether if they have limited breeds and animals over the weight limit. Emotional support animal cases often go to court because property managers struggle with this.
The landlord must prove that the increased or lost insurance creates an undue administrative or financial burden in order for the court to rule in his favor. In spite of the fact that landlords can take this legal route, rulings in their favor are rare in these cases. In most cases, tenants are allowed to keep emotional-support animals as long as they have a verified letter from a mental health professional.
Landlords should follow these rules
In order to clarify the terms and legal allowances for emotional-support animals, HUD has issued an assistance-animal notice. The document answers common questions regarding what is and isn’t legal for both landlords and tenants.
In addition, landlords should be aware that they may have to navigate these waters more frequently. Increasingly, people worry that emotional-support companions will be abused, causing them to fear this allowance will be misused. Currently, federal law allows only one service animal per person, although in some cases people may have two or more based on their disability.
Landlords cannot refuse to allow an emotional-support animal to live on their property as long as it hasn’t been documented to harm others. To hold up in court, any history of threats must contain overwhelming evidence.
The Future of Pet Policies
The rental landscape is adjusting to tenants’ needs, so landlords should plan for pet-policy changes in the future. The number of young people living in rental units is on the rise, including those who are starting families. People in their apartment may need emotional support animals as their families grow.
Property managers can find more clarity on their rights and the rights of tenants in the assistance-animal notice recently published by HUD. The agreement covers most situations that might arise, so disputes can be resolved without going to court.