One thing that a Grapevine rental property owner has to think about is whether or not tenants will be allowed to have pets on the property. Even though you have a no-pet policy for your rental homes, support animals aren’t covered by that policy. There are specific instances, though, when a tenant must be allowed to keep an animal on the property regardless of your pet policy. This is provided under the Fair Housing Act. However, there are exceptions to the rule. This is why it’s essential for you to know what the federal laws are if they apply to your situation, and when it’s reasonable to deny a tenant’s request.
The Fair Housing Act and Support Animals
In general, the Fair Housing Act is a set of laws intended to prevent discrimination against tenants who belong to a protected class. This includes tenants who rely on support animals for either emotional or physical assistance. Take note, the Fair Housing Act classifies these animals differently from pets. There is a reason for that distinction. So your no-pet policy usually isn’t a legal reason to deny a tenant’s request to keep a support animal on the property.
There are two basic types of support animals. Service animals are animals trained to perform specific tasks. A guide dog is a typical service animal that has been trained to guide a person with impaired vision. The other type of support animal is assistance or emotional support animal. Unlike service animals, these animals need no specific training for them to perform their role. Alternatively, emotional support animals offer other benefits to their owners. For example, a cat that helps lighten the load of a person’s depression and anxiety or, a bird that is trained to notify a deaf person that someone is at the door.
When the Law Applies to You – And When It Doesn’t
For the most part, federal law states that property owners cannot deny a tenant’s request to keep either a service animal or an emotional support animal in their rental home. It is unlawful for you to charge a tenant a pet deposit or additional rent. The tenant must furnish documentation of the support their animal offers. This could be either a service animal certification or a letter from a medical or mental health professional describing the need for the support animal.
Yet again, there are some exceptions to this rule. The first exemption is that of property type. If your rental property is owner-occupied or is owned by a private organization for the benefit of its members, the support animal rule does not apply. Also, the FHA doesn’t apply if yours is less than three single-family houses, all of which are managed by you.
Other possible exceptions to federal law include dangerous animals or denial of insurance. If you can somehow prove that the tenant’s animal is a direct threat to the safety of others on the property, you should be able to deny the request. The legal basis for the denial, though, cannot be based on the animal’s breed or size. It’s also probable that your insurance carrier can be an exemption. If your insurance provider scraps your landlord insurance policy or opts to bill you excessive amounts to sanction the support animal on the property, you could successfully argue that you are unable to grant the tenant’s request reasonably.
Support animals and their owners have specific legal protections that, as a Grapevine rental property owner, you must accept. With its many complexities, the federal law is something you must have a good grasp on so that you can be equipped to handle any requests for support animals on your property. The intricacies of property management laws can be very stressful to learn. So, why not just hire a company already well-versed in this aspect of the law? Contact us today to learn how we can make your life easier as a rental property owner.
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.