More than 32% of pet owners have had their furry friend registered as an emotional support animal. These animals provide their owners with relief and comfort from symptoms they experience from their emotional disabilities. Any species can be considered an emotional support animal and they're not considered to be pets.
As a landlord, you must understand the difference between pets and support animals. While you might not allow pets in your rentals, service animals don't fall under the same restrictions. There are also questions you can and can't ask prospective tenants about their support animals.
This guide will discuss everything you need to know about support animals. Equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible so you can make the best choices regarding them in the future.
What Is a Support Animal?
A support animal is a therapeutic animal. They provide support to those who suffer from various mental health conditions, such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
While emotional support animals are usually a cat or a dog, any animal can be one. As a landlord, you can't ask someone why they need a support animal. You can ask them for documentation for their support animal, such as a signed letter from the prospective tenant's mental health professional.
You can't call their doctor unless you have signed and written consent from your tenant. Their healthcare provider can also give you a note that says you may contact them.
Are Emotional Support Animals Pets?
You might not allow pets in a rental property. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that support animals aren't pets. That's because these animals are providing a service to make life easier for those with disabilities.
Tenants are allowed to have their emotional support animal, so long as they meet the requirements of being disabled. Landlords have to change their policies to accommodate the tenant and their support animals.
Even if your tenant signed an agreement that says you don't allow pets, they can still have their support animal in the unit with them. The major caveat is their animal needs to get verified using the method we discussed above.
It's against the law to cancel a lease because a tenant needs to have a support animal. Landlords also can't reject a prospective tenant because of it either.
You Can Establish Rules
Certain regulations help support landlords when navigating this issue. For example, a tenant can only have one support animal.
Landlords also can say something if the tenant has an overly large support animal, such as a llama or a horse. You're not expected to accommodate a tenant who has such a large companion.
Additionally, if the animal has a history of hurting others, you have some leeway with rejecting their application. Undomesticated species, like wolves, aren't considered support animals.
Learn Everything You Need to About Support Animals
It's important to educate yourself on the rules and regulations surrounding support animals. Failing to do so could result in potential lawsuits or issues for you in the future. Partnering with an experienced property management company will ensure you stay in compliance.
Terra Residential Services provides comprehensive property management services in the greater Houston area. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.