El Segundo landlords are responsible for giving reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities. This entails consenting to have emotional support animals in rental properties. Lamentably though, some landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to search for ways to avoid them. This blog post will offer some helpful guidelines for rental property owners related to emotional support animals. We will, moreover, mention and expound on the serious consequences of not obeying the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to apprehend is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are specially trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, for example, guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals offer companionship and emotional comfort. They do not need to have any special training. They are not considered pets, so breed and size restrictions do not apply.
Emotional Support Animals and the Law
Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords must grant reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This means freely allowing emotional support animals in rental properties, even if your property is widely known as “pet-free.” Property owners are not granted permission to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant demands to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are quite a few exceptions to this rule, namely if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes serious damage to the property. Still, these exceptions are uncommon and should not be used as an excuse to prohibit and deny a tenant’s request to have an emotional support animal.
Handling Tenant Requests for Emotional Support Animals
To qualify a tenant for an emotional support animal, you can request your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter, in general, clearly states that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. Despite that, however, it is illegal for a property owner to ask a tenant to provide specific details or even documentation of their disability.
Alternatively, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that a property owner must determine whether to grant their tenant’s request for an emotional support animal solely on the recommendation of a health care professional.
Consequences for Not Following the Law
But what if an El Segundo property manager rejects a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees? Consequently, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they perceive and confirm that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can entail civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order requiring the property manager to grant authorization for the emotional support animal to be on the property.
As already pointed out, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and can trigger awful penalties. If you have any questions referring to your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management California Coast. We can positively help you navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 310-535-2150.
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.