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Support Animals in Rentals: What Jacksonville Tenants and Landlords Must Know

Support Animals in Rentals: What Jacksonville Tenants and Landlords Must Know

In a vibrant real estate market like Jacksonville, property owners have a lot of decisions to make. Often, this involves protecting their assets with policies that attract tenants.

Many landlords either prohibit or have very strict rules regarding pets. However, support animals are an entirely different category. They have their own rules.

This article covers everything you need to know about support animals in rental properties. Keep reading to learn how to protect your Jacksonville investment while ensuring tenants' rights.

Types of Support Animals

First, there are different categories of support animals. "Service animals" are those that can help owners perform particular tasks that are limited by disability. A common example is a seeing-eye dog for visually impaired people.

The other type of support animal is an "emotional support animal" (ESA). These provide comfort and emotional aid to people with a mental or emotional disability.

They are, however, not trained to perform certain tasks, like service animals. While dogs and cats are the most common types of ESAs, almost any domestic animal can fill this role.

Support Animals and Tenant Rights

People who qualify as needing service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is illegal to discriminate against them based on this need. They can enter any business with the animal, and property owners cannot deny them rent based on this need.

The ADA defines service animals by their ability to mitigate a disability, not by breed or species. So, property owners cannot set restrictions based on size or type of animal.

Unlike service animals, ESAs are not covered by the ADA. For instance, businesses can restrict their entry. However, the Fair Housing Act does provide some basic housing protections for people with ESAs.

In general, landlords must accommodate ESAs. However, unlike with service animals, they can restrict the size and type of ESA. This must be based on safety concerns or space limitations of the property.

Tips for Renting to Someone With a Service or Support Animals

If a rental applicant states that they have a service or support animal, the property owner is allowed to ask for documentation. It is in your best interest to verify the legitimacy of the claim. It is illegal for someone to falsely represent a pet as a support animal.

People with service animals should be able to show registration. There is no official registration for ESAs. However, the tenant can ask to see an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional indicating the need.

Service animals should always wear designated vests or harnesses, indicating them as such. ESAs are not required to have this kind of identification.

Finally, you cannot charge pet fees or deposits for service animals or ESAs. However, you can set standards for having animals on the premises, like cleaning up after them.

Learn More About Support Animals in Rentals

Now that you understand the rules about support animals, you can establish policies that are fair and reasonable. An experienced property management company can further advise you on enforcing leases for tenants with support animals.

Nest Finders provides unmatched real estate management expertise for Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and the surrounding areas. We offer a range of services, including marketing, tenant placement, rent collection, and more.

Contact us today to learn more about navigating support animals in rentals.