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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalAn essential decision that all Greensboro rental property owners make is whether or not to allow their tenants to keep pets on the property. But even though you have a no-pet policy for your rental homes, you perhaps might be amazed to discover that it doesn’t apply to support animals. Under the Fair Housing Act, there are cases when property owners would have to allow a tenant to keep an animal on the property no matter what your pet policy is. On the other hand, there are also exceptions to this rule. Because of this, it is imperative to understand what the federal laws are, whether the law applies to you, and when you can reasonably deny a tenant’s request.

 

The Fair Housing Act and Support Animals

Broadly speaking, the Fair Housing Act is a set of laws intended for the purpose of preventing discrimination against tenants who belong to a protected class. This takes into consideration tenants who rely on support animals for either emotional or physical assistance. One key aspect of the Fair Housing Act that you should be aware of is that it classifies these animals differently from pets. Knowing this, 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. One common example of a service animal is a guide dog that has been trained to help a person with impaired vision. The other type of support animal is assistance or emotional support animal. These animals do not need to be trained to perform one or more specific tasks as service animals do. On the contrary, an emotional support animal provides benefits to its owners in other ways. It may be a cat that helps alleviate a person’s depression and anxiety, or a bird trained to alert a deaf person when someone is at the door.

 

When the Law Applies to You – And When It Doesn’t

Mainly, 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 also not allowed to charge the tenant a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must provide documentation of the support their animal offers. This may be either a service animal certification or a letter from a medical or mental health professional describing the need for the support animal.

Still, however, there are a few exceptions to this rule. The first exception is based on the property type. If it happens that your rental property is owner-occupied or is owned by a private organization that uses the property for its members, the support animal rule does not apply. The FHA likewise does not apply if you own less than three single-family houses and rent them out yourself.

Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. If indeed you can prove that the animal the tenant wants to keep on the property poses a direct threat to the safety of others, you may be able to deny their request. On the other hand, however, your denial cannot legally be based on the animal’s breed or size alone. Another potential exemption could come from your insurance carrier. On the off chance that your insurance provider refuses you a landlord insurance policy or seeks to charge excessive amounts to allow the support animal on the property, you possibly might be able to 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 Greensboro rental property owner, you need to be aware of. With tons more intricacies in federal law, it is always best to be prepared with the right information before they ask to keep a support animal on the property. If understanding the ins and outs of all property management laws seems like an overwhelming endeavor, why not 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.