Grand Rapids landlords are, in fact, responsible for providing reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. This includes permitting emotional support animals in rental properties. Sad to say though, quite a lot of landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to discover various ways to sidestep and avoid them. This blog post will discuss various helpful guidelines for rental property owners regarding emotional support animals. We will, as well, go into the negative consequences of not obeying the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to perceive well is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are specially trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, as an illustration guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals furnish companionship and emotional comfort. They do not warrant having any special training. They are not considered pets, so breed and size restrictions do not apply.
Emotional Support Animals and the Law
Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords must bestow reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This certainly also includes allowing emotional support animals in rental properties, even if your property is known as “pet-free.” Property owners are not entitled to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant states their desire to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are a handful of exceptions to this rule, for example, if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes great damage to the property. Then again, these exceptions are certainly rare and should not be used as an excuse to just dismiss a tenant’s request to have an emotional support animal.
Handling Tenant Requests for Emotional Support Animals
To qualify a tenant as an emotional support animal, you can ask your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter should signify that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. But even while that is true, however, it is illegal for a property owner to ask a tenant to provide specific details or even documentation of their disability.
Instead, indeed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that a property owner must determine whether to grant their tenant’s request for an emotional support animal solely on the recommendation of a health care professional.
Consequences for Not Following the Law
So now, let’s suppose a Grand Rapids property manager just dismisses a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees. In this regard, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they find out that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can imply civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order commanding the property manager to approve having the emotional support animal on the property.
As you can very clearly see, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and can lead to substantial penalties. If you have any questions about your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management Investment Solutions. We can, by all means, help you to navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 616-419-4578.
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.