Alpharetta landlords are certainly responsible for providing reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This includes permitting emotional support animals in rental properties. Adversely, most landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to use various ways to avoid them. This blog post will give numerous beneficial guidelines for rental property owners regarding emotional support animals. We will likewise expound on the grave ramifications of not obeying the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to be aware of is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are principally trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, such as guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals afford companionship and emotional comfort. They do not have to have 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 offer reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This comprises freely allowing emotional support animals in rental properties, even if your property is classified as “pet-free.” Property owners are not even allowed to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant tells you they wish to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are some exceptions to this rule, like if the animal is a danger to other tenants or causes serious damage to the property. Except, these exceptions are quite rare and should not be used as an excuse to easily dismiss 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 require your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter often expresses that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. Even if that is the case, however, it is illegal for a property owner to ask a tenant to provide specific details or even documentation of their disability.
Alternately, 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
Now let’s presume an Alpharetta property manager dismisses a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees. In any case, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they see that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can include civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order compelling the property manager to allow the emotional support animal on the property.
So as you can very well see in the above paragraphs, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is, without a doubt, not an excuse and can open you up to getting penalties. If you have any questions on the subject of your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management Executives Greater Atlanta. We can help you navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 678-504-8580.
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.