Under the U.S. Fair Housing Act, there are two main categories of animals that qualify as assistive: emotional-support animals and service animals.
A service animal is trained to perform specific tasks to mitigate their owner’s disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they are allowed to accompany their owners in public places. The most-common types of service animals are dogs.
Emotional-support animals help the tenant manage symptoms associated with mental or emotional disabilities. They don’t need special training to do their job. The ESA is part of the treatment plan prescribed by a medical-health professional familiar with the tenant’s medical condition and/or disability. Many types of animals qualify.
A legitimate ESA letter is recognized under federal law and entitles the tenant to certain reasonable accommodations from the landlord. Sadly, there are scams on the internet where individuals get bogus ESAs. Landlords must know what a legitimate ESA letter is and what is a reasonable accommodation. If you have concerns, you can do research, however it is a tricky process and can easily get you sued for housing discrimination.
Some HOAs and insurance companies may have restrictions on the size and breeds of animals allowed in a community, however that is no excuse to not allow the animal. There may be legitimate situations where you cannot reasonably accommodate the animal.
An assistive animal cannot be treated as a pet. This means that no pet deposit and monthly pet fees can be charged. Tenants must follow all community rules and regulations, ensuring the safety of others and ensuring that the animal does not disturb the peace and quiet enjoyment of the community.
Dealing with assistive animals can be a complicated issue and every situation is different. If you need assistance in navigating the assistive-animals landscape, consult a property-management company. They know fair-housing laws and have legal resources to manage all issues related to assistive animals.
Maricopa residents Sherman and Euphemia Weekes have more than 30 years’ experience in property management and own Crest Premier Properties. Licensed Realtors and active members of the National Association of Residential Property Management with a Certified Residential Property Management designation.