The first image that typically comes to mind when people hear of assistance animals is that of a dog in a red vest guiding a blind person. However, there is a growing trend of emotional support animals. Do you as a Springville landlord need to rent to a person with an emotional support animal?
To start with, let’s explore the differences between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act are those that are specifically trained to do tasks, give assistance, or do work for individuals with disabilities. They can identify and act upon certain medical conditions as well. An emotional support animal (ESA) is one that helps somebody who requires either emotional or psychological support and is protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. They are distinguished by their close, emotional, and supportive bond with their owner.
In order to enjoy the benefits of having an ESA, a resident has to secure a letter from a medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, although any medical professional can issue the letter. The letter should state that the animal is crucial, as well as what kind of animal the person uses as their ESA. Additionally, a resident requesting to have more than one ESA must have an individual letter for each animal.
The most common conditions that ESAs help 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 become an ESA so long as the resident provides a letter of endorsement from a licensed mental health professional. Existing pets can be ESAs as well if the medical professional can verify that the patient’s current pet is delivering vital mental support to the patient’s well-being.
Unlike standard service animals, Emotional Support Animals are not required by law to have any special training or experience to be permitted to help people who need support. However, they are regarded as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). As a landlord, you cannot refuse a verified ESA owner’s request for reasonable accommodation unless you meet guidelines established in your state as a resident landlord owner, like renting out the basement of your property while you reside on the main floor. Also, you can’t charge an advance deposit or extra fees for ESAs unless the ESA owner allows the animal to become a nuisance or damage is caused to the rental home, much as with any guest or occupant in a rental situation.
The above is a common summary of FHA guidelines for ESAs, but you do need to check state guidelines as there may be further state-specific guidelines on ESAs. Real Property Management Utah County is knowledgeable about the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they affect you as a Springville landlord. We help you navigate these requirements to ensure that you are in compliance when renting to individuals with Emotional Support Animals.