Salt Lake City landlords are charged with providing reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This comprises permitting emotional support animals in rental properties. Disappointingly, a lot of landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to identify measures to avoid them. This blog post will touch on some guidelines for rental property owners on the subject of emotional support animals. We will secondly talk about the serious consequences of not obeying the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to learn and understand is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are mainly trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, in particular guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals extend companionship and emotional comfort. They do not entail having 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 provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. This includes agreeing to allow emotional support animals in rental properties, even if your property is supposed to be “pet-free.” Property owners are not permitted to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant wishes to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are some exceptions to this rule, for illustration if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes great damage to the property. Nonetheless, these exceptions are unique and should not be used as an excuse to disallow or deny 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 request your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter commonly states that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. However, it is illegal for a property owner to ask a tenant to provide specific details or even documentation of their disability.
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
Supposing a Salt Lake City property manager disapproves a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees. In that event, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they indeed find out that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can comprise civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order calling for the property manager to grant permission for the emotional support animal on the property.
As discussed above, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and can create critical penalties. If you have any questions relating to your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management Wasatch. We can help you navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 801-889-1517 or 435-244-3394.
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.