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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalOne thing that a Cutler Bay rental property owner has to think about is whether or not tenants will be allowed to have pets on the property. 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. Yet, 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. Take note, the Fair Housing Act classifies these animals differently from pets. There is a reason for that distinction. 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 typical example of a service animal is a guide dog that has been trained to assist 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. Emotional support animals give support to their owners, instead. It could be a cat the helps a person cope with depression and anxiety, or a bird that alerts a deaf person when someone is at their 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. The law forbids you from charging a 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.

Still, there are exceptions to this. The first exemption is the property type. If your rental property is owner-occupied or is owned by a private organization primarily for its members, the support animal rule does not apply. If you have less than three single-family houses that you manage on your own, the FHA doesn’t apply.

Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. If you can somehow prove that the tenant’s animal is a direct threat to the safety of others on the property, you should be able to deny the request. However, the animal’s breed or size must not be the legal basis for your denial. One possible exemption can also be your insurance carrier. If your insurance provider scraps your landlord insurance policy or opts to bill you excessive amounts to sanction the support animal on the property, you could 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 Cutler Bay 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. If the particulars of property management laws seem to be too much for you, why not hire a company that is 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.

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