National Harbor landlords are, as a matter of fact, responsible for offering and providing reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This pertains also to authorizing emotional support animals in rental properties. Disappointingly though, countless landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to look for ways to avoid them. This blog post will impart a lot of useful guidelines for rental property owners as regards emotional support animals. We will, at the same time, speak about the negative consequences of not following the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to take into account and grasp well is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, a case in point is guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals provide companionship and emotional comfort. They do not have any special training. They are also 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 indeed provide reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This also includes permitting emotional support animals in rental properties, even if your property is considered “pet-free.” Property owners are not allowed, to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant informs them they’d like to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are particular exceptions to this rule, on the flip side, for instance, if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes pertinent damage to the property. But at the same time, these exceptions are not everyday occurrences and should not be used as an excuse to ignore 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 certainly require that your tenant provide a letter from a health professional. This letter explicitly says that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. But even with that, however, 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
So let’s say a National Harbor property manager disallows a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees. Because of this, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they uncover that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can mean civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order forcing the property manager to give authorization for the emotional support animal on the property.
As you can observe, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and can cause significant penalties to happen. If you have any questions about your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management Gold. We, assuredly, can successfully help you navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 301-392-2172.
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.