When people hear about of assistance animals, the initial image that normally comes to mind is that of a dog in a red vest leading a blind person. However, there is a mounting trend of emotional support animals. Do you as a Rockledge landlord need to rent to a resident with an emotional support animal?
Firstly, let’s look at the differences between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act are those individually trained to give assistance, perform work, or do tasks for persons with disabilities. Also, they can recognize and act upon certain medical conditions. An emotional support animal (ESA) aids somebody who requires either emotional or psychological support and is protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. They are distinguished by their close, emotional, and supportive bond with their owner.
A resident has to secure a letter written by any medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, in order to enjoy the benefits of having an ESA. The letter must state that the animal is necessary, as well as what type of animal the person has as their ESA. Additionally, a resident requesting to have more than one ESA must provide a separate letter for every 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. Still, ESAs are not limited to these conditions. Any animal can be an ESA so long as the resident gives 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 Support Animals are not required by law to have any type of special training or experience to be permitted to help a person that needs support. But, they are considered a reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities 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. Furthermore, you cannot charge extra fees or an advance deposit for ESAs unless the ESA owner allows the animal to be a nuisance or damage is caused to the rental house, much like any occupant or guest in a rental setting.
The above is a general summary of FHA guidelines for ESAs, although you will need to check state guidelines too as there could be other state-specific guidelines on ESAs. Real Property Management Brevard is well informed about the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they apply to you as a Rockledge landlord. We can assist you in dealing with these requirements to ensure that you are in compliance when renting to people with Emotional Support Animals.