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A Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Support Animals

Young Woman Being Comforted by her Emotional Support AnimalEvery Round Rock rental property owner has to decide whether or not tenants are going to be allowed to have pets on the property. Be aware, though, that support animals aren’t part of the no-pet policy for rental homes. There are specific instances, though, when a tenant must be allowed to keep an animal on the property regardless of your pet policy. This is provided under the Fair Housing Act. However, there are exceptions to the rule. A tenant’s request can be denied reasonably, as long as you know which laws apply to your situation. This is why it’s vital for you to be aware of federal laws.

The Fair Housing Act and Support Animals

In general, the Fair Housing Act is a set of laws intended to prevent discrimination against tenants who belong to a protected class. This includes tenants who rely on support animals for either emotional or physical assistance. A really important point made by the Fair Housing Act that you should remember is that it classifies these animals differently from pets. So 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. A guide dog is a typical service animal that has been trained to guide a person with impaired vision. The other type of support animal is assistance or emotional support animal. Unlike service animals, these animals need no specific training for them to perform their role. Alternatively, emotional support animals offer other benefits to their owners. This could be a cat that mitigates a person’s struggle with depression and anxiety, or it could be a bird that is trained to help a deaf person know if someone is at their door.

When the Law Applies to You – And When It Doesn’t

For the most part, 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 prohibited from charging the tenant a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must submit documentation of the support their animal offers. This could be either a service animal certification or a letter from a medical or mental health professional describing the need for the support animal.

Nonetheless, there are still exceptions. Property type is the first one. If your rental property is owner-occupied or is owned by a private organization that makes use of the property for its members, the support animal rule does not apply. And, the FHA doesn’t apply if your rental properties are less than three single-family houses, all being managed by yourself.

Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. Another possible scenario to deny a request is if you prove the animal to be a direct threat to the safety of other tenants on the property. But, legally, the denial must not be based on the animal’s breed or size. Another exemption can come in the form of your insurance carrier. If your insurance provider dismisses your landlord insurance policy or estimates excessive amounts to accept the support animal on the property, that could be a successful argument to reasonably deny the tenant’s request.

Support animals and their owners have specific legal protections that, as a Round Rock rental property owner, you must recognize. With its many complexities, the federal law is something you must have a good grasp on so that you can be equipped to handle any requests for support animals on your property. The intricacies of property management laws can be very stressful to learn. So, why not just 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.