When people hear about assistance animals, the first picture that normally comes to mind is that of a dog in a red vest leading a blind person. However, there is a mounting trend of emotional support animals. Do you as an Ocala landlord have to rent to a resident with an emotional support animal?
To begin with, let’s explore the differences between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act are those specially trained to give assistance, do work, or perform tasks for persons with disabilities. They can also identify and act upon certain medical conditions. An emotional support animal (ESA) aids somebody who requires either emotional or psychological support and is protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. These animals are characterized by their close, emotional, and supportive bond with their owner.
A resident must acquire a letter written by any medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, to enjoy the benefits of having an ESA. The letter should state that the animal is necessary, as well as what type of animal the individual has as their ESA. Also, a resident requesting to have more than one ESA must provide an individual letter for every animal.
The most common conditions that ESAs help with are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, fear or phobias, panic disorder or panic attacks, mood disorders, personality disorders, seasonal affective disorder, and social anxiety disorder. However, ESAs are not limited to these conditions. Any animal can be an ESA as long as the resident can provide an endorsement letter from a licensed mental health professional. Even current pets can become ESAs if the medical professional can verify that the patient’s current pet is providing essential mental support to their well-being.
Unlike standard service animals, Emotional Support Animals are not legally required to have any kind of special training or experience to be permitted to aid a person that requires support. Still, they are considered a reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). You as a landlord cannot deny a verified ESA owner’s request for reasonable accommodation unless you meet state-specified guidelines as a resident landlord owner, like renting out the basement of your home wherein you reside on the main floor. Also, you cannot ask for an advance deposit or additional fees for ESAs with the exception that the ESA owner allows the animal to be a nuisance or damage is caused to the rental property, much as with any guest or tenant in a rental situation.
The above is a general overview of FHA guidelines for ESAs, but you do need to check state guidelines as well because there could be more state-specific guidelines on ESAs. Real Property Management Diversified knows the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they apply to you as an Ocala landlord. We can help you navigate these requirements to make certain that you are in compliance when renting to persons with Emotional Support Animals.