Provo landlords are obligated to provide reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This includes allowing emotional support animals in rental properties. But alas, most landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to find ways and means to steer away from them. This blog post will touch on several guidelines for rental property owners about emotional support animals. We will speak as well of the repercussions of not following the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to understand well is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are primarily trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, particularly guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals grant companionship and emotional comfort. They do not have to have 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 guarantee reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This includes emotional support animals in rental properties, even if your property is noted to be “pet-free.” Property owners are not allowed to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant would like to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, by way of example if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes critical damage to the property. On the other hand, these exceptions are extraordinary occurrences and should not be used as to excuse to turn down a tenant’s request to have an emotional support animal.
Handling Tenant Requests for Emotional Support Animals
To qualify a tenant for an emotional support animal, you can require your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter oftentimes denotes that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. Even so, however, it is illegal for a property owner to ask a tenant to provide specific details about or even documentation of their disability.
By comparison, 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
But indeed, suppose a Provo property manager denies a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees. In this instance, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they ascertain that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can incorporate civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order requiring the property manager to accept the emotional support animal on the property.
As discussed, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and can induce major penalties. If you have any questions concerning your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management Utah County. We can help you navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 801-224-0033.
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.