There is a growing trend of emotional support animals all throughout the United States of America, but what are these emotional support animals and how does it differ with service animals? And do you as a Portsmouth landlord have to rent to a resident with an emotional support animal?
To begin with, let’s look at the differences between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals need proper training first to be qualified as such. They are those that are partnered with persons with disabilities to provide assistance, to do work, or perform tasks for them, they also are able to recognize and act upon certain medical conditions and protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. An emotional support animal (ESA) is one that assists somebody who needs either emotional or psychological support and is protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. These animals are distinguished by the close, emotional and supportive bond between the animal and their owner.
ESAs are commonly availed by those residents that have these conditions: 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; however, ESAs are not limited to these conditions. Any animal can be an ESA as long as the resident has a letter of endorsement from a licensed mental health professional. A resident’s current pet/pets can be their ESAs if the medical professional can attest that the patient’s current pet is providing sufficient mental support to the patient’s well-being.
Not like standard service animals, Emotional Support Animals are considered reasonable accommodation for residents with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). They are not required by law to have any kind of special training or experience to be allowed to help an individual that requires support. You as a landlord cannot reject a verified ESA owner’s request for reasonable accommodation unless you meet guidelines set in your state as a resident landlord owner such as renting out the basement of your home wherein you live on the main floor. Furthermore, you cannot charge an advance deposit or extra fees for ESAs with the exception that the ESA owner allows the animal to be a nuisance or damage is done to the rental house, much as with any occupant or guest in a rental situation.
To fully avail enjoy the benefits of having an ESA, a resident must provide a letter of endorsement written by a medical professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed clinical social worker that states that the animal is necessary for your resident’s well-being. The letter must also state what kind of animal the individual uses as their ESA. Additionally, a resident requesting to have more than one ESA must have a separate letter for each individual animal.
The above is a general overview of FHA guidelines for ESAs, but you will need to check state guidelines as well as there may be additional state-specific guidelines on ESAs. Real Property Management Seacoast New Hampshire is knowledgeable about the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they apply to you as a Portsmouth landlord. We can assist you in navigating these requirements to make sure 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.