When people hear the phrase, “assistance animals,” the initial image that comes to mind is usually that of a dog in a red vest leading a blind person. However, there is a growing trend of emotional support animals. As a La Crescenta landlord, do you need to rent to a tenant with an emotional support animal?
To start with, let’s understand the differences between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act are those trained specifically to offer assistance, do work, or handle responsibilities for people with disabilities. They can identify and act upon certain medical conditions too. An emotional support animal (ESA) is one that helps persons who need either emotional or psychological support and is covered by the Federal Fair Housing Act. These animals usually have a close, emotional, and supportive bond with their owner.
For them to have the benefits of having an ESA, a resident must acquire a letter from a medical professional, like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker (although any medical professional can provide the letter). The letter must identify the animal as necessary, as well as the kind of animal the person has as their ESA. Also, a resident requesting to have more than one ESA must provide a separate letter for each animal.
The most common conditions that ESAs aid with are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, fear or phobias, panic disorder or panic attacks, mood disorders, personality disorders, seasonal affective disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Still, ESAs are not limited to these conditions. Any animal can be an ESA as long as the resident provides a letter of endorsement from a licensed mental health professional. Even current pets can be ESAs if the medical professional could attest that they are giving vital mental support to the patient’s well-being.
Unlike standard service animals, Emotional Support Animals are not required by law to have any experience or special training to be allowed to assist a person that requires support. But they are considered a reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). As a landlord, you cannot reject a verified ESA owner’s request for reasonable accommodation unless you meet state-specific guidelines as a resident landlord owner, such as renting out your home’s basement while you live on the main floor. Also, you can’t charge an advance deposit or extra fees for ESAs unless the ESA owner allows the animal to become a nuisance or damage is caused to the rental home, much as with any guest or occupant in a rental situation.
The above is a general summary of FHA guidelines for ESAs, although you will need to check state guidelines too as there could be other state-specific guidelines on ESAs. Real Property Management East San Gabriel Valley knows the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they apply to you as a La Crescenta landlord. We can assist you as you navigate through these requirements to ensure that you are in compliance when renting to individuals with Emotional Support Animals.
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.