The first image that typically comes to mind when somebody hears about assistance animals is that of a dog wearing a red vest guiding a blind person. However, there is a developing trend of emotional support animals. As a Lexington Park landlord, do you have to rent to someone with an emotional support animal?
First, let’s look at the difference between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act are those exclusively trained to do work, provide assistance, or handle tasks for persons with disabilities. They can also recognize and act upon certain medical conditions. An emotional support animal (ESA) is one that helps somebody who requires either emotional or psychological support and is protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. These animals usually have a close, emotional, and supportive bond with their owner.
To make use of the benefits of having an ESA, a resident must obtain a letter from a medical professional, like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, though any medical professional can provide it. The letter needs to declare that the animal is necessary as well as what kind of animal the person has as their ESA. Additionally, a resident requesting to have more than one ESA must have an individual letter for each animal.
The most common conditions that ESAs assist with are 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 so long as they are supported by a letter of endorsement from a licensed mental health professional. Even current pets can be ESAs if the medical professional could attest that they are giving vital mental support to the patient’s well-being.
Unlike standard service animals, Emotional Service Animals are not legally required to have any experience or special training to be allowed to help a person that needs support. However, they are regarded as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). As a landlord, you cannot reject a verified ESA owner’s request for reasonable accommodation unless you meet state-specific guidelines as a resident landlord owner, such as renting out your home’s basement while you live on the main floor. Additionally, you cannot ask for an advance deposit or extra fees for ESAs unless the ESA owner allows the animal to be a nuisance or damage is done to the rental home, much as with any tenant or guest in a rental setting.
The above is a general overview of FHA guidelines for ESAs, though you may need to check state guidelines as well, as there could be more state-specific guidelines on ESAs. Real Property Management Gold is knowledgeable regarding the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they concern you as a Lexington Park landlord. We can assist you as you navigate through these requirements to ensure that you are in compliance when renting to individuals with Emotional Support Animals.