Landlord Rights for Emotional Support Animals
Publish Date: May 8th, 2020; Author: Darren M. Jorgenson.
So you’ve got your brand spanking new Emotional Support Animal Letter for living with your ESA clutched in your sweating hands.Now what?
Well, before you go off to your landlord to waive your letter confidently in their face, maybe you had better educate yourself on your landlord’s rights in this situation.
Yes, that’s correct — your landlord’s rights.
Landlord’s Rights: No Financial Hardship
The first thing to remember about your bid to live with your ESA pet is that your pet must not cause any undue financial hardship for your landlord. Let’s see how that plays out in their rights.
Now, the first thing to understand is, it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against anyone because of mental or physical disability.
This simply means that a landlord cannot refuse to provide you housing, force you to accept substandard housing or charge you extra fees for your Emotional Support Animal. This does not mean the same thing for just your regular pet, which is not classed as an ESA. For your pet to fall under these guidelines, you must present your landlord with an Emotional Support Animal Letter.
So what happens when a tenant provides a landlord with an ESA Letter that signifies an animal which is considered to be a “restricted breed” by the housing management, for example, a pit bull?
The breed doesn’t matter. It does not matter what kind of animal is presented as an Emotional Support Animal. The management must accept this pet.
To disqualify any particular breed of animal, the housing management must assert that this particular animal — rather than specifying this particular breed — shows signs of being dangerous to the house on the property.
For example, let us consider a Pit bull.
Being a pit bull is not enough to disqualify this animal. Does it act aggressively toward other residents? Does it strain at its leash, barking and snarling and biting at passersby? Has it already acted aggressively, thereby putting another resident in danger?
These would be reasons to disqualify this animal, but not the entire breed. These decisions must be made on a case by case basis.
Restricted Breeds and Insurance
But what if the landlord’s insurance specifies certain breeds to be restricted from the property and so the landlord’s insurance either will increase or be canceled for accepting certain kinds as ESA’s?
In this instance, the courts may find that this situation would cause undue financial hardship for the landlord and will likely side with the management company.
Comparisons of alternative insurance policies will be in order during one of these cases.
Does Animal Need Special Training?
In a word — no.
But they must still alleviate at least one symptom of a mental or physical disorder. For example, it would be a perfect reason for a tenant to assert that their cat helps to relieve symptoms of loneliness and feelings of being overwhelmed by their depression. Even one of these assertions is enough to qualify that cat as an Emotional Support Animal.
Can a Person Have More Than One ESA?
Though there are no cases yet of people being challenged for claiming more than one ESA, the basic tenets remain the same.
Both animals must alleviate at least one mental symptom individually. In other words, one cannot claim two animals who both help reduce feelings of being overwhelmed during a depression. Instead, each animal must alleviate a specific symptom that is different from the symptoms relieved by the other animal.
Can landlord Deny a Request for an Emotional Support Animal?
It is tough for a landlord to deny a tenant’s ESA rights.
If the animal disrupts the essential happiness of the other residents or prevents other residents from utilizing the common areas of the property, or if the animal displays aggression to other residents then the landlord may be authorized to evict the tenant if they refuse to either control their animal or to get rid of it.
An Emotional Support Animal is now a right for anyone with a mental disability to live and travel with. As a landowner, it is completely up to you to educate yourself on the laws and customs surrounding this new legal class of pets. Knowing your rights — and those of your prospective and current tenants — is imperative. The more you know, the easier your landlord/tenant exchanges will be. And that is always something worth striving for.