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Jacksonville Property Management Blog

How To Navigate Emotional Support Animals In Your Rental Home

How To Navigate Emotional Support Animals In Your Rental Home

Ugg, another rental applicant stating that they have an emotional support animal. At some point, every landlord and property manager will have to deal with someone wanting to have an animal in a rental that clearly stated no pets. 

Several things will need to be addressed when faced with a renter who states that they have an emotional support animal. 

First, what are the laws regarding what animals are allowed, what qualifies an animal, and what is the difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal? 


Let’s start with the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal.


According to the National Service Animal Registry,  “A service dog is specially trained to perform a function or job for an owner that has a physical, intellectual, or emotional disability. An emotional support animal serves as more of a companion for the owner”.


An ESA (emotional support animal) is not trained professionally to perform tasks for the owner. They are not allowed in all of the places that law requires service dogs to be accommodated. If you were to take your dog out you could be refused service at a restaurant where certified service dogs are allowed.


One thing ESA’s and Service Dogs do have in common is the laws surrounding compliance with the Fair Housing Act. A few of the bigger points are listed below:


  • A landlord, HOA, or Co-op board cannot deny an Emotional Support Animal due to their weight, age, or breed
  • A landlord cannot deny an ESA’s breed
  • To qualify an existing pet as a legitimate ESA, the owner must qualify for an ESA letter from a Licensed Mental Health Professional 


According to Certa Pet as a landlord you could be subject to a civil penalty if you are found guilty of violating the Fair Housing Act, “The maximum penalties are $16,000 for a first violation and $70,000 for a third violation within seven years.”


You, as a landlord, or your property manager should be careful when considering the denial of a potentially legitimate ESA or service animal. That does not mean you cannot be compensated for the additional cleaning and potential damage.


While a landlord cannot deny the ESA or service animal they can require an additional fee. According to the Humane Society, “Service and assistance animals are not technically pets and owners do not have to pay pet fees. The landlord, however, can charge a security deposit and may still seek money from the tenant if there is any damage caused by the animal to the home.” 


The internet is a great and wondrous thing but can create some questionable “legal” documents. If your renter brings you a letter stating their pet is for emotional support, the folks at ESA Doctors can help you decern if a letter is legit or questionable.


“Not all ESA letters are the same. Your ESA letter should be written on a licensed mental health professional’s official letterhead with their licensing and direct contact information. Make sure that the licensed mental health professional’s license is in good standing and up to date. You can check on your therapist’s licensing by searching your state’s professional licensing database.”


While not every tenant is on the up and up about the legal status of their pet you can rest assured that there are professionals out there to help you navigate the rules. Nest Finders has a long reputation for handling the toughest rental situations. 


If you are ready to let the professionals handle all of the ins and outs of your property management Nest Finders can help with the details. Give them a call today and let them vet your renters and their pets!!