Seminar Speaker

President's Message

Owning a rental property presents many challenges landlords may not anticipate until they become reality. It’s common for landlords to feel caught off-guard when presented with their first emotional-support-animal (ESA) letter. Many communities, including those that don’t allow pets, find themselves home to individuals who need support pets to live their daily lives. It may challenge landlords to take a second look at their rules and guidelines while they figure out what is or isn’t allowed under each lease. The following should make the conversation easier for everyone involved.

Tenants Need a Signed Letter

Landlords unfamiliar with emotional-support animals may wonder if some tenants want to circumnavigate no-pet rules when they don’t actually require the support. If they present a signed letter, it means they’ve visited with a licensed mental-health professional and have received a diagnosis that requires a companion. Legally, landlords cannot call the health-care provider unless they receive written and signed consent from the tenant. The doctor may also leave a note welcoming landlords to call him or her with any questions or concerns. During that call, landlords cannot ask for someone’s medical history, even if the tenant gives written consent.

Emotional-Support Animals Don’t Count as Pets

Some landlords may struggle with allowing an ESA on their property because they’ve already established a no-pet policy. According to guidelines from the HUD, assistance animals don’t count as pets because they work to provide a service, tasks, or assistance to make life easier for people with disabilities. Whether a person has a dog, cat, or another kind of animal, if they’ve received a verified letter from a medical professional, landlords must make changes to accommodate them on the property.

Tenants Have Rights

As long as a tenant meets the definition of being disabled, they’re allowed to have an ESA. When they require one, landlords must change their policies and services to accommodate them. Even if a tenant has already signed a lease and agreed to having no pets in their unit, they can still bring home an ESA if it’s verified. It’s illegal to nullify a lease based on a person’s need to accommodate their disability or reject a potential candidate because they require a service animal.

Rules Landlords Can Follow

HUD has issued an ESA notice to clarify the terms and legal allowances for ESAs. It guides both landlords and tenants by getting into the finer details of common questions regarding what is and isn’t legal. As long as the ESA doesn’t have a documented history of harming others, landlords cannot reject it from living on their property. Because ESAs don’t legally count as pets, they’re not required to meet any rules regarding restricted breeds and weight limits. Any shown history of threats to other tenants must contain overwhelming evidence to hold up in court. Visit www.PetScreening.Com for assistance and https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/assistance_animals for more information. I’ve had an increased number of requests regarding ESAs, and I hope this information will help each of you.

Be Kind and Stay Safe and Healthy!