What are Orlando Property Managers’ Rights When it Comes to Service and Companion Animals?Liam Pool
At Homevest, we offer expert Orlando property management, real estate, property rentals, and HOA management serving all of Central Florida, including Winter Garden, Doctor Phillips, Baldwin Park, Winter Springs, and Windermere.
Many rental property owners and investors have asked us about service animals, emotional support animals, and companion animals. Fair housing laws protect people with disabilities who need these animals, and today we’re talking about what you can and can’t do when it comes to leasing your home, screening your tenants, and managing your property.
Pets and Service or Support Animals
Many owners don’t want to open their rental properties to pets. They’re worried about the damage that can be caused and the liability that often comes with dogs and cats living in the rental home with the tenants.
That’s perfectly within your rights. However, service and support animals are not considered pets. The law considers them to be accommodations, and that means you cannot deny a service animal, companion animal, or emotional support animal. You also cannot charge a pet deposit or a pet fee. You cannot charge any pet rent.
When it comes to fair housing laws and anti-discrimination statutes, there is no wiggle room. If you don’t want to accept a pet into your rental property, you don’t have to. But, you are required to accept service and support animals, and you cannot deny a tenant who is otherwise qualified for your home just because he or she is moving in with a support animal.
Understanding Service Animals and Support Animals
There’s a difference between service animals and emotional support animals.
A service animal has an actual job. These animals have been trained in specific functions, and they help people with disabilities to perform tasks that they wouldn’t be able to manage on their own. The most common service animal is a Seeing Eye Dog. These animals are certified and come with documentation.
Emotional support animals are a little different. They do not have specific jobs, but they provide psychological benefits and emotional support to people who have anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other kinds of disabilities. Since emotional support animals are not certified, you are entitled to ask for documentation from a certified healthcare provider that states why the animal is needed and what it does to reduce the impact of the owner’s disability.
Orlando Rental Property Owners’ Rights
While you cannot legally deny tenants with service or support animals, and you cannot collect pet fees, deposits, or rents, you can take some steps to protect yourself and your property.
Ask for the documentation if your tenant has an emotional support animal, and call the healthcare provider to verify who they are and that they sent the letter certifying the tenant’s need for a support animal. This can be part of your screening process.
You can also deduct any damages left by the animal from the tenant’s security deposit after they move out. Conduct an inspection during the course of the tenancy to make sure you don’t see any damage caused by the animal.
This is still a confusing area of the law for many rental property owners and landlords. If you’re not sure how to handle emotional support animals and service animals, please contact us at Homevest. We’d be happy to provide additional resources and support.