The initial picture that usually comes to mind when someone mentions assistance animals is that of a dog wearing a red vest leading a blind person. But there is an increasing trend of emotional support animals. Do you, as a Hudson landlord, need to rent to a person with an emotional support animal?
To start with, let’s explore the differences between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act are those trained to give assistance, perform work, or do tasks for people with disabilities. Also, they can recognize and act upon certain medical conditions. An emotional support animal (ESA) is one that aids a person who needs either emotional or psychological support and is covered by the Federal Fair Housing Act. These animals are characterized by the intimate, emotional, and supportive bond between the animal and their owner.
A resident needs to secure a letter written by any medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, to be able to enjoy the benefits of having an ESA. The letter should specify that the animal is essential, as well as which kind of animal they use as their ESA. Additionally, a resident requesting to have more than one ESA must provide a separate letter for every animal.
The usual 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 restricted to these conditions. Any animal can become an ESA so long as the resident provides a letter of endorsement from a licensed mental health professional. Even existing pets can be ESAs if the medical professional can verify that the patient’s current pet is giving necessary mental support to the patient’s well-being.
Unlike standard service animals, Emotional Support Animals are not required by law to have any type of special training or experience to be permitted to help a person that needs support. Still, they are deemed a reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). You, as a landlord, cannot refuse a verified ESA owner’s request for reasonable accommodation unless you meet guidelines established in your state as a resident landlord owner, such as renting out the basement of your property wherein you reside on the main floor. Moreover, you cannot ask for an advance deposit or additional fees for ESAs with the exception that the ESA owner allows the animal to become a nuisance or the rental property is damaged, much as with any occupant or guest in a rental situation.
The above is a common summary of FHA guidelines for ESAs, but you do need to check state guidelines as there may be further state-specific guidelines for ESAs. Real Property Management Metro West-Worcester is knowledgeable about the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they apply to you as a Hudson landlord. We can help you in navigating these requirements to make certain that you are in compliance when renting to individuals with Emotional Support Animals. Interested in learning more? For more information, please contact us online or call us at 508-329-6000.
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.