Perhaps an existing tenant or an applicant has informed you that they have an emotional support animal. Do you know how to respond and what this means for your Long Beach rental property?
It’s an area of the law that’s still confusing to many people, even experienced investors and rental property owners. We’ve worked hard to help owners understand what an emotional support animal is, and how it differs from a pet and even a service animal.
An emotional support animal is considered a companion animal by state and federal fair housing laws. That designation comes with some important facts about what you can and cannot do when you have such an animal in your rental property.
Here’s what you need to know.
Service Animals and Companion Animals
Service animals are dogs, and they’re trained to help a person with a disability do a specific task. When your Long Beach tenant needs a service animal for a physical or intellectual disability, it’s usually obvious what that animal is needed for, and so you cannot reasonably ask for details or specifics. You wouldn’t ask a person with a vision impediment why they need a Seeing Eye Dog, for example.
However, companion animals are different and you cannot always easily see why a person would need them.
Emotional support animals are not trained or certified in any way, but they do support and comfort the person who owns them, and they’re acquired at the direction of a healthcare professional. One of the main differences between a companion animal and a service animal is that you can freely ask for documentation if the disability is not immediately apparent.
You’re permitted to require documentation from a medical professional explaining the disability and why the animal is required. When you find yourself in this situation, be respectful rather than adversarial. Your tenant is exercising their rights.
What You Cannot Do with Emotional Support Animals
Your tenant’s emotional support animal is not considered a pet. It’s considered an accommodation, just like a wheelchair or shower bars in the bathroom.
This means you cannot deny the animal or the tenant who needs the animal. Even if you have a strict no-pets policy in your rental home, if a tenant applies for your property and is well-qualified, you have to allow them to move in with their support animal.
When you rent out homes to tenants with pets, you likely have a pet policy in place that requires a pet deposit or a pet fee and maybe even pet rent every month. You cannot collect these funds with an emotional support animal.
Long Beach Tenant Responsibilities with Companion Animals
While you cannot collect a pet fee or pet rent, you’ll still collect a security deposit for any tenant moving into your property. You can use the security deposit at the end of the lease term to repair any damage that was done by the service or support animal. You can also require your tenant to clean up after the animal and ensure it isn’t a threat or a nuisance to other tenants or the property.
Understanding how pets are different from service animals and emotional support animals is not always easy. Fair housing laws are always changing and it’s important to stay up to date on the latest when it comes to pets and service or companion animals.
We can help you get a handle on this, and prevent you from making expensive legal mistakes. Contact us at HCM Property Management for all of your Long Beach property management needs.