Dover landlords are responsible for imparting reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This consists of giving consent to having emotional support animals in rental properties. Woefully, some landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to find certain ways to avoid them. This blog post will offer useful guidelines for rental property owners concerning emotional support animals. We will, in addition, also talk about the results of not complying with the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to assimilate and understand completely is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are precisely trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, for instance, guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals render companionship and emotional comfort. They do not need 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 give reasonable accommodation to tenants with disabilities. This includes consenting to have emotional support animals in rental properties, even if your property is referred to as “pet-free.” Property owners are certainly not allowed to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant states a desire to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are certain exceptions to this rule, for example, if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes extensive damage to the property. Yet truth be told, these exceptions are indeed rare and should not be used as an excuse to dismiss a tenant’s request to have an emotional support animal.
Handling Tenant Requests for Emotional Support Animals
To qualify a tenant as an emotional support animal, you can request your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter normally points out clearly that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. While 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.
As an alternative, 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, suppose a Dover property manager dismisses a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees. If such is the case, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they can prove that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can certainly include civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order obligating the property manager to permit the emotional support animal on the property.
As shown in the above paragraphs, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and can cause undesirable penalties. If you have any questions about your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management Seacoast New Hampshire. We can surely help you to navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 603-343-2202.
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.