When one hears of assistance animals, the first image that immediately comes to mind is that of a dog wearing a red vest, leading a blind person. However, there is a rising trend of emotional support animals. Do you as a Grandville landlord have to rent to a resident with an emotional support animal?
So, what are these assistance animals and how does it affect your responsibility as a Grandville landlord? To start with, let’s look at the differences between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, are defined as dogs (and sometimes miniature horses) individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability, they also are able to recognize and act upon certain medical conditions. An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal that a medical professional has determined provides a therapeutic benefit for an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability and is protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. These animals are distinguished by the close, emotional and supportive bond between the animal and their owner.
The most common conditions that ESAs assist with are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, fear or phobias, panic disorder or panic attacks, mood disorders, personality disorders, seasonal affective disorder, and social anxiety disorder. However, ESAs are not limited to these conditions. Any animal can be an ESA as long as the resident has a letter of endorsement from a licensed mental health professional. Even current pets can become ESAs if the medical professional can attest that the patient’s current pet is providing vital mental support to the patient’s well-being.
Unlike standard service animals, Emotional Support Animals are not required by law to have any kind of special training or experience to be allowed to help an individual that requires support. However, they are considered a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
If a resident needs an emotional support animal to help alleviate the symptoms of a disability, he or she must first make the request to his or her landlord. HUD states the following in its FHEO Notice: “Housing providers may ask individuals who have disabilities that are not readily apparent or known to the provider to submit reliable documentation of a disability and their disability-related need for an assistance animal.” A resident must secure a letter written by a medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, although any medical professional can provide the letter. The letter must specify that the animal is necessary, as well as what kind of animal the individual uses as their ESA. Additionally, a resident requesting to have more than one ESA must have a separate letter for each individual animal.
You as a landlord cannot reject a verified ESA owner’s request for reasonable accommodation unless you meet guidelines set in your state as a resident landlord owner such as renting out the basement of your home wherein you live on the main floor. Additionally, you cannot charge an advance deposit or extra fees for ESAs with the exception that the ESA owner allows the animal to be a nuisance or damage is done to the rental house, much as with any occupant or guest in a rental situation.
The above is a general overview of FHA guidelines for ESAs, but you will need to check state guidelines as well as there may be additional state-specific guidelines on ESAs. Real Property Management Investment Solutions is knowledgeable about the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they apply to you as a Grandville landlord. We can assist you in navigating these requirements to make sure that you are in compliance when renting to individuals with Emotional Support Animals.
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.