San Diego landlords are accountable for granting reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This includes authorizing emotional support animals in rental properties. Sad to say, a large number of landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to look for ways and means to shun them. This blog post will discuss several guidelines for rental property owners as to emotional support animals. We will likewise discuss the effects of not obeying the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to ascertain and understand is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are typically trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, like guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals bestow companionship and emotional comfort. They do not call for any special training. They are 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 lend reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This takes into consideration allowing emotional support animals in rental properties, even if your property is perceived as “pet-free.” Property owners are not allowed to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant expresses the desire to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule, by way of illustration if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes real damage to the property. Although, these exceptions are rare and should not be used as an excuse to repudiate a tenant’s request to have an emotional support animal.
Handling Tenant Requests for Emotional Support Animals
To qualify a tenant for an emotional support animal, you can demand for your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter oftentimes points out that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. But definitely, it is illegal for a property owner to ask a tenant to provide specific details or even documentation of their disability.
Contrary to 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
What happens if a San Diego property manager prevents a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees? In such a case, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they prove that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can cover civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order demanding the property manager to acknowledge and allow the emotional support animal on the property.
As noted, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and can bring on significant penalties. If you have any questions regarding your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management Realevate Specialists. We can support you to navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 858-997-2100 or 951-461-0100.
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.