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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

A key decision that all rental property owners have to make is whether or not to allow their tenants to keep pets on the property. But although you have a no-pet policy for your rental homes, you may perhaps be astonished to know that it doesn’t apply to support animals. Under the Fair Housing Act, there are occasions when property owners ought to allow a tenant to keep an animal on the property no matter what your pet policy is. However, there are also exceptions to this rule. That’s why, it is very important to understand what the federal laws are, whether the law applies to you, and when you can reasonably deny a tenant’s request.

The Fair Housing Act and Support Animals

Broadly, the Fair Housing Act is a set of laws intended in order to prevent discrimination against tenants who belong to a protected class. This counts tenants who rely on support animals for either emotional or physical assistance. One key aspect of the Fair Housing Act that you need to know is that it classifies these animals differently from pets. Considering this, 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. One common example of a service animal is a guide dog that has been trained to help a person with impaired vision. The other type of support animal is assistance or emotional support animal. These animals do not need to be trained to perform one or more specific tasks as service animals do. Instead, an emotional support animal provides benefits to their owners in other ways. It could be a cat that helps alleviate a person’s depression and anxiety, or a bird trained to alert a deaf person when someone is at the door.

When the Law Applies to You – And When It Doesn’t

By and large, 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 also not allowed to charge the tenant a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must provide documentation of the support their animal offers. It might be either a service animal certification or a letter from a medical or mental health professional describing the need for the support animal.

On the other hand, however, there are a few exceptions to this rule. The first exception is based on the property type. If in case your rental property is owner-occupied or is owned by a private organization that uses the property for its members, the support animal rule does not apply. The FHA also does not apply if you own less than three single-family houses and rent them out yourself.

Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. Assuming you can prove that the animal the tenant wants to keep on the property poses a direct threat to the safety of others, you may possibly be able to deny their request. Be that as it may, however, your denial cannot legally be based on the animal’s breed or size alone. Another potential exemption can come from your insurance carrier. When your insurance provider refuses you a landlord insurance policy or demands to charge excessive amounts to allow the support animal on the property, you could most definitely be able 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 a rental property owner, you have got to know. With a lot more intricacies in federal law, it is always best to be prepared with the right information before they ask to keep a support animal on the property. If knowing the ins and outs of all property management laws seems like an overwhelming obligation, why not hire a company already well-versed in this aspect of the law? Contact Overland Management today to learn how we can make your life easier as a rental property owner.

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