The Woodlands landlords are, unequivocally, responsible for providing reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This counts as giving authority for having emotional support animals in rental properties. Too bad, various landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to circumnavigate these laws to avoid them. This blog post will offer here various helpful guidelines for rental property owners concerning emotional support animals. We will also expound more on the bad repercussions of disobeying the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to distinguish and understand clearly is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, that is to say, guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals guarantee companionship and emotional comfort. They do not need to have 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 offer reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. This includes giving authority for emotional support to animals in rental properties, even if your property is treated as “pet-free.” Property owners are not permitted to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant desires to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are one or more exceptions to this rule, for instance, if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes much damage to the property. But certainly, these exceptions are quite rare and should not be used as to excuse to summarily dismiss 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 call for your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter most often explains that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. Granting that, however, it is illegal for a property owner to ask a tenant to provide specific details or even documentation of their disability.
But rather, 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
Let’s dare say a Woodlands property manager negates a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees. In this instance, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they identify that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can easily include civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order demanding the property manager to authorize the emotional support animal on the property.
As you can truly see, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is indeed not an excuse and can easily lead to really grave penalties. If you have any inquiries regarding your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management Republic. We can effectively help you navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 281-362-5001.
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.