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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalOne significant choice that all Jenks rental property owners have to make is whether or not they are going to permit their tenants to have pets on the property or not. However, even if you have a no-pet policy for your rental homes, that policy doesn’t include support animals. A tenant can be allowed to have an animal on the property regardless of pet policy. This is possible, under certain circumstances, as provided by the Fair Housing Act. There are, however, exceptions to this. A tenant’s request can be denied reasonably, as long as you know which laws apply to your situation. This is why it’s vital for you to be aware of federal laws.

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. One facet of the Fair Housing Act that you should always bear in mind is that it classifies these animals differently from pets. 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 good example of a service animal would be a guide dog — one that has been trained to provide assistance to 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. An emotional support animal supplies a unique set of benefits to its owners. Like a cat that helps ease a person’s depression and anxiety, or a bird that signals a deaf person when someone is at the 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 prohibited from charging the tenant a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must supply 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.

However, there are exceptions to this, as well. 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. And, the FHA doesn’t apply if your rental properties are less than three single-family houses, all being managed by yourself.

Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. It is reasonable to deny a request if you can prove that the tenant’s animal is a direct threat to the safety of others on the property. But, legally, the denial must not be based on the animal’s breed or size. Insurance carriers can also be another exemption. If your insurance provider declines you a landlord insurance policy or costs excessive amounts to permit the support animal on the property, you might successfully argue that you are unable to grant the tenant’s request reasonably.

Support animals and their owners have specific legal protections that you must comprehend as a Jenks rental property owner. Hence, best to do your due diligence when it comes to federal law. This way, you can be prepared to handle situations where tenants request support animals on the property. If learning the different property management laws is such a daunting task for you, why not hire a company that is 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.