Orlando landlords have the responsibility of providing reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This includes approving emotional support animals in rental properties. Deplorably, however, plenty of landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to use ploys to avoid them. This blog post will offer several beneficial guidelines for rental property owners in connection with emotional support animals. We will further refer to the implications of not complying with the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to appreciate and truly understand is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are particularly trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, for instance, guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals deliver companionship and emotional comfort. They do not need to have any special training. They are also 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 provide reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This naturally includes authorizing emotional support animals in rental properties, even if your property is noted as “pet-free.” Property owners are not allowed to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant needs to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are certainly some exceptions to this rule, for instance, if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes considerable damage to the property. At any rate, these exceptions seldom happen and should not be used as an excuse to deprive a tenant’s request to have an emotional support animal.
Handling Tenant Requests for Emotional Support Animals
To qualify a tenant as an emotional support animal, you can easily request your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter largely shows that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. Despite that, however, it is illegal for a property owner to ask a tenant to provide specific details or even documentation of their disability.
Instead, be aware that 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
So let’s assume an Orlando property manager refuses 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 realize that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can take the form of civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order demanding the property manager to sanction and allow the emotional support animal on the property.
Needless to say, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is assuredly not an excuse and can instigate real penalties. If you have any questions as to your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management South Orlando. We can undoubtedly help you navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 407-982-2000.
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.