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. But there is a climbing trend for emotional support animals. Do you, as a Wake Forest landlord, need to rent to a person with an emotional support animal?
To begin with, let’s explore the differences 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. They are characterized by the intimate, emotional, and supportive relationship between the animal and their owner.
In order to enjoy the benefits of having an ESA, a resident has to secure a letter from a medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, although any medical professional can issue the letter. The letter should specify that the animal is essential, as well as which kind of animal they use 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 provide aid for 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. But, ESAs are not restricted to these conditions. As long as the resident has a letter of endorsement from a licensed mental health professional, any animal may become an ESA. Even existing pets can be ESAs if the medical professional can confirm that the patient’s current pet is providing essential mental support to their 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). You, as a landlord, cannot decline a verified ESA owner’s request for reasonable accommodation unless you meet state-specified guidelines as a resident landlord owner, such as renting out the basement of your home wherein you stay 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 common summary of FHA guidelines for ESAs, but you do need to check state guidelines as there may be further state-specific guidelines for ESAs. Real Property Management Raleigh is knowledgeable regarding the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they concern you as a Wake Forest landlord. We can help you navigate these requirements to make sure that you are in compliance when renting to people 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.