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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalAn essential part of owning a Mount Pleasant rental property is deciding if you are going to allow tenants to have pets on the property or not. Even though you have a no-pet policy for your rental homes, support animals aren’t covered by that policy. Through the Fair Housing Act, a tenant may be allowed to keep an animal on the property, regardless of pet policy. However, there are exceptions to the rule. Take some time to acquaint yourself with the federal laws, and if they apply to you. This can be useful, especially when you have to reasonably deny a tenant’s request.

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 usual example of a service animal is a guide that has been trained to aid a person with impaired vision. The other type of support animal is assistance or emotional support animal. These animals don’t need any kind of training, unlike service animals that need to be trained for specific tasks. 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. You are restricted from charging your tenant a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must submit 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.

But, there are certain exceptions to this. Property type is the first one. 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. The FHA doesn’t apply if you own less than three single-family houses and manage them by yourself.

Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. Another possible scenario to deny a request is if you prove the animal to be a direct threat to the safety of other tenants on the property. Legally, though, you cannot deny a request based on the animal’s breed or size. Also, your insurance carrier can be a likely exemption. If your insurance provider turns down your landlord insurance policy or charges excessive amounts to grant the support animal on the property, you can 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 Mount Pleasant rental property owner, you must accept. 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. The intricacies of property management laws can be very stressful to learn. So, why not just hire a company 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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