Raleigh landlords are primarily responsible for giving reasonable accommodation to tenants with disabilities. This undoubtedly means authorizing emotional support animals in rental properties. Sadly though, many landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to use schemes to avoid them. This blog post will expound on several useful guidelines for rental property owners as regards emotional support animals. We will also talk about the negative effects of disobeying the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to comprehend well is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are more particularly trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, including guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals confer companionship and emotional comfort. They do not need 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 indeed provide reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This incorporates authorizing emotional support animals in rental properties, even if your property is designated “pet-free.” Property owners are not allowed at all to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant wants to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are specific exceptions to this rule, on the other hand, for example, if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes some big damage to the property. But certainly, these exceptions are admittedly rare and should not be used as an excuse to turn down 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 ask your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter normally explains the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. But even while that’s the case, however, it is illegal for a property owner to ask a tenant to provide specific details or even documentation of their disability.
Rather though, 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
Assuming, indeed, a Raleigh property manager spurns a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they determine that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can compose of civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order compelling the property manager to permit the emotional support animal on the property.
Knowing all these, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and can cause major penalties. If you have any questions regarding your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management Raleigh. We absolutely can help you to navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 919-481-0008.
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.