What are assistance animals? How many types are there? What are my responsibilities as a landlord if I have a resident in Woodstock that needs them? When you think of assistance animals, you may immediately picture out a scene that is of a dog wearing a red vest, leading a blind person. These animals are what classified as emotional support animals and there is a rising trend in numbers for them.
There are two types of animals that are available as support and are mostly confusing when you do not know the difference between the two. To clarify, let’s look at the differences between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals which are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, are those that are individually trained to provide assistance, to do work, or perform tasks for persons with disabilities, they also are able to recognize and act upon certain medical conditions. An emotional support animal (ESA) on the other hand is one that assists somebody who needs either emotional or psychological support and is protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. According to the FHA, an ESA is allowed by law to live in a single-family home, apartment, condominium unit, and other types of housing even if these have existing policies on prohibiting pets to live in them.
To fully avail the benefits of having an ESA, a resident must secure a letter awarded by a medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, although any medical professional can endorse an ESA. The letter must specify that the animal is necessary, as well as what kind of animal the individual will use. Additionally, a resident requesting to have more than one ESA must have a separate letter for each individual animal.
ESAs support these most common conditions: 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. But, ESAs are not limited to these conditions. Any animal can be an ESA as long as the resident has a letter of endorsement from a licensed mental health professional. Even current pets can become ESAs if the medical professional can attest that the patient’s current pet is providing vital mental support to the patient’s well-being.
Unlike standard service animals, Emotional Support Animals are not required by law to have any kind of special training or experience to be allowed to help an individual that requires support. However, they are considered a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). You as a landlord cannot reject a verified ESA owner’s request for reasonable accommodation unless you meet guidelines set in your state as a resident landlord owner such as renting out the basement of your home wherein you live on the main floor. Additionally, you cannot charge an advance deposit or extra fees for ESAs with the exception that the ESA owner allows the animal to be a nuisance or damage is done to the rental house, much as with any occupant or guest in a rental situation.
The above explanation is just a general overview of FHA guidelines for ESAs, but you will need to check state guidelines as well as there may be additional state-specific guidelines on ESAs. Real Property Management East Cobb is knowledgeable about the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they apply to you as a Woodstock landlord. We can assist you in navigating these requirements to make sure that you are in compliance when renting to individuals with Emotional Support Animals.