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Rights and responsibilities when it comes to ESA's

Rights and responsibilities when it comes to ESA's

As a landlord, you may encounter tenants who have emotional support animals (ESAs). These animals provide emotional support and companionship to individuals with mental health conditions or disabilities. While landlords have certain rights to manage their properties, it is important to understand the legal and ethical obligations when it comes to ESAs. Here's what landlords need to know about emotional support animals:

ESAs are not pets
Unlike regular pets, ESAs are not considered as pets under the law. They are deemed as reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Therefore, landlords cannot reject or discriminate against a tenant based on their need for an ESA.

Landlords cannot charge pet fees or deposits for ESAs
Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords cannot charge a pet deposit or fee for ESAs as they are not pets. However, landlords can charge tenants for any damage caused by the ESA to the rental property.

Tenants must provide proper documentation
To verify the need for an ESA, tenants must provide landlords with proper documentation, such as a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating the disability or condition and the need for the animal. This documentation must not disclose any specific diagnosis or treatment, as this information is confidential under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Landlords can ask for additional information in certain circumstances
Landlords are allowed to ask tenants for additional information if the need for an ESA is not obvious or the documentation provided is insufficient. For example, if the tenant's disability or need for an ESA is not apparent, landlords can ask for more information about the nature, severity, and duration of the disability.

Landlords can set reasonable rules for ESAs
While landlords cannot discriminate against tenants with ESAs, they can set reasonable rules for their presence in the rental property. For example, landlords can require tenants to keep their ESAs on a leash or in a carrier when in common areas, to clean up after their animals, and to ensure their ESAs do not pose a threat to other tenants.

Landlords cannot deny reasonable accommodation requests for ESAs
Under the FHA, landlords are required to provide reasonable accommodation requests for tenants with disabilities, including those who have ESAs. Denying such requests without proper justification can lead to legal action and result in significant penalties.

Landlords must be aware of the rights of tenants with emotional support animals and the legal and ethical obligations that come with it. By understanding these obligations and treating tenants with empathy and respect, landlords can create a positive and inclusive living environment for all their tenants.