In the past decade, a growing number of people have been using emotional support animals to help cope with mental or physical ailments. Property owners need to be aware of the rights afforded to tenants who have service animals and the obligations to allow these animals (even if they don't allow pets).
Understanding these rules can help owners avoid costly lawsuits and other legal difficulties down the line. Atlanta property management professionals can serve as a valuable resource for more information since they know the laws concerning emotional support animals and what needs to be added to a residential lease agreement to ensure everyone is on the right side of the law. Let's look at some of the essential details you need to know as an Atlanta residential property owner.
Emotional Support Animals: What's the Difference?
Even if you're not an animal lover, you probably know a pet is a domesticated animal for companionship and enjoyment. Pets can be anything from a dog to a pot-bellied pig and everything in between.
An emotional support animal is a pet with a purpose. Emotional support animals (or ESAs) help calm and support people who suffer from symptoms of depression and other mental issues. However, ESA's are a little different from a service animal.
What is the Key Difference Between Emotional Support and Service Animals?
A service animal is trained to perform tasks for someone who suffers from an impairment. ESA's may or may not perform specific tasks other than soothing their owner when in distress. In general, emotional support animals specifically provide comfort and don't require any certifications or special training that you'll find with service animals.
However, a doctor's note can be necessary to register an animal as an ESA. Because service animals provide an essential service for their owners who need assistance because of physical, mental, or emotional impairments, they are regarded as "medical equipment."
What is the Law In Atlanta, Georgia Regarding Emotional Support Animals?
Most property owner responsibilities are laid out in the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to these landlord and tenant regulations, landlords may not discriminate or refuse to rent to tenants who have registered emotional support animals. Even if a property owner has a "no pets" policy, they must make reasonable accommodations for residents who have emotional support animals.
Suppose a tenant who owns an emotional support animal applies for a rental property. Before denying the animal, work with Atlanta property management experts to navigate the proof you can (or can't) require from a potential renter regarding an ESA. Asking the wrong questions or requiring specific types of documentation can lead to a lawsuit.
Include the Terms In the Rental Lease Agreement
If you find a tenant with an emotional support animal, make sure to outline everything in the rental agreement so that everyone knows the responsibilities of both the property owner and residents.
Property managers know there are some restrictions to what a landlord can and cannot do under the Fair Housing Act, including:
- Property owners cannot demand that the emotional support animal have any special training.
- It is unlawful for a landlord to charge extra rent or deposits (including pet deposits) to tenants who require emotional support animals. However, it should be noted that property owners can use the security deposit to pay for property damage caused by the animal.
- Those with support animals are not subject to the same breed restrictions that apply to other residents.
- Landlords who refuse to rent to people with service animals might be sued for housing discrimination.
- Residents must still clean up after and give adequate care to their emotional support animals.
- Landlords are not permitted to inquire about a tenant's particular disabilities or illnesses. You can see the doctor's note, but that's about it.
- If a property reasonably fears that an emotional support animal will pose a danger to others, the accommodation may be denied.
Work with a property manager to navigate the rules and set up your rental contract when working with renters and ESAs.
The Benefits of Allowing Emotional Support Animals and Other Pets
About 85 million families in the United States own a pet of some type. That's a vast pool of potential tenants that could become excellent renters in your properties!
A property management company can help you set pet criteria and policies and set a higher rent amount to offer pet-friendly properties successfully. Allowing pets can lead to extra revenue!
Partner With Atlanta Property Management Experts to Manage Animals and Renters
Setting up a thorough lease agreement to protect your investments can get tricky when dealing with pets or emotional support animals. If you're not sure how best to navigate these rules, partner with the best property management company Atlanta offers to create strong leases and manage renters and animals. Renters Warehouse Atlanta offers full-service property management to help investors make more money! Reach out soon to learn more about our property management services.