Bellevue landlords are indeed responsible for providing reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This certainly includes permitting emotional support animals to live in your rental properties. However, innumerable landlords are unaware of their legal obligations or try to seek out means to just avoid them. This blog post will focus on a bunch of guidelines for rental property owners when it comes to emotional support animals. We will furthermore talk about the issues resulting in not carefully obeying the law.
Defining Emotional Support Animals
The first thing to take into consideration and understand well is that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. Service animals are first and foremost trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, take one example guiding them around obstacles or helping them with daily tasks. On the other hand, emotional support animals lend companionship and emotional comfort. They do not necessarily 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 provide reasonable accommodation for tenants with disabilities. This constitutes granting permission for emotional support to animals in rental properties, even if your property is classified as “pet-free.” Property owners are not authorized to charge additional pet deposits or higher rent if a tenant tells them they want to keep an emotional support animal on the property.
There are several exceptions to this rule, on the other hand, like if the animal is a danger to other tenants or if it causes great damage to the property. Be that as it may, these exceptions are rather rare and should not be used as an excuse to customarily 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 for your tenant to provide a letter from a health professional. This letter naturally explains that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability, and the animal provides therapeutic benefits. Be that as it may, however, it is illegal for a property owner to ask a tenant to provide specific details or even documentation of their disability.
But rather, 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
Let’s assume that a Bellevue property manager dismisses a tenant’s request for an emotional support animal or tries to charge them additional fees. For this reason, the tenant can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD will investigate the complaint, and if they figure out that the property manager has violated the law, they can impose penalties. These can mean civil fines, damages to the tenant, and even a court order insisting the property manager allows the emotional support animal on the property.
As we have discussed, landlords need to understand their legal obligations regarding emotional support animals. Ignorance of the law is, without a doubt, not an excuse and can be the cause of severe penalties for you. If you have any questions in terms of your pet policy, the Fair Housing Act, or emotional support animals, contact Real Property Management Eclipse. We can truly help you effectively navigate state and federal laws and keep your rental property policies fully compliant with the law. Call us at 425-209-0252.
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.