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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalA vital decision that all Grand Junction rental property owners make is whether or not to allow their tenants to keep pets on the property. But though you have a no-pet policy for your rental homes, you could be astounded to understand that it doesn’t apply to support animals. Under the Fair Housing Act, there are instances when property owners have to allow a tenant to keep an animal on the property no matter what your pet policy is. Still, there are also exceptions to this rule. In light of this, it is necessary 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

In general terms, the Fair Housing Act is a set of laws intended so that it’s possible to prevent discrimination against tenants who belong to a protected class. This takes into account tenants who rely on support animals for either emotional or physical assistance. One key aspect of the Fair Housing Act that you must be aware of is that it classifies these animals differently from pets. As such, 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. But instead, an emotional support animal provides benefits to their owners in other ways. It might 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

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

At any rate, however, there are a few exceptions to this rule. The first exception is based on the property type. Supposing 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 additionally 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. When 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. Still, however, your denial cannot legally be based on the animal’s breed or size alone. Another potential exemption might come from your insurance carrier. If your insurance provider refuses you a landlord insurance policy or wishes to charge excessive amounts to allow the support animal on the property, you probably 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 Grand Junction rental property owner, you should understand. With a whole lot 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 finding out the ins and outs of all property management laws seems like an overwhelming job, 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.