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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 Airway Heights rental property owner needs to make is if tenants will be allowed to have pets on the property or not. Even though you have a no-pet policy for your rental homes, support animals aren’t covered by that policy. 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. Although, keep in mind that there are certain exceptions to this. This is why it’s essential for you to know what the federal laws are if they apply to your situation, and when it’s reasonable to 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 specific element of the Fair Housing Act that you should be aware of 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 regular example of a service animal is a guide dog that has been trained to support a person with impaired vision. The other type of support animal is assistance or emotional support animal. Not quite the same as service animals, these support animals don’t need particular training for what they are supposed 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. It is also not allowed for a landlord to charge the tenant for a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must supply 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. First of all, property type. If your rental property is owner-occupied or is owned by a private organization to be enjoyed by its members, the support animal rule does not apply. Also, the FHA doesn’t apply if yours is less than three single-family houses, all of which are managed by you.

Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. It is reasonable to deny a request if you can prove that the tenant’s animal is a direct threat to the safety of others on the property. As long as your denial is not based on the animal’s breed or size, you won’t have any problems legally. Insurance carriers can also be another exemption. 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 an Airway Heights rental property owner, you must accept. 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 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.