When someone mentions assistance animals, the image that immediately comes to mind is that of a dog wearing a red vest, leading a blind person. However, there is a rising trend of emotional support animals. Do you as a Playa Vista landlord have to rent to a resident with an emotional support animal?
These animals, to begin with, are recognized by law as a necessity for the person needing them but there are two kinds of assistance animals, Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals. How do we know which is what and how does that affect you as a landlord? Let us first discuss the difference between the two. Service animals 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) is one that assists somebody who needs either emotional or psychological support and is protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. These animals are distinguished by the close, emotional and supportive bond between the animal and their owner.
In order to enjoy the benefits of having an ESA, a resident must secure a letter written by a medical professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, although any medical professional can provide the letter. The letter must specify that the animal is necessary, as well as what kind of animal the individual uses as their ESA. Additionally, a resident requesting to have more than one ESA must have a separate letter for each individual animal.
The most common conditions that ESAs assist 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 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 is 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 California Coast is knowledgeable about the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they apply to you as a Playa Vista 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.
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.