Landlord Tips & Tricks
January 17, 2024

Can a Landlord Legally Reject an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

Steadily's blog cover page for information around landlord insurance.

As a landlord, you have the right to decide whether or not to allow pets or emotional support animals in your rental property. However, there are certain circumstances under which you can deny their presence. It's important to understand your legal rights and responsibilities and the potential risks and benefits of allowing pets or emotional support animals in your rental property.

Additionally, having proper landlord insurance coverage is crucial to protect your investment. There are different types of landlord insurance policies available, including landlord liability insurance, landlord building insurance, and landlord contents insurance. These policies provide financial protection against property damage, legal disputes, loss of rental income, and other unforeseen events.

Key Takeaways:

  • Landlords have the right to deny pets or emotional support animals in their rental properties under certain circumstances.
  • Understanding landlord insurance is crucial for protecting your investment.
  • There are different types of landlord insurance policies available to provide financial protection.
  • Landlord insurance coverage can protect against property damage, legal disputes, and loss of rental income.
  • It's important to understand your legal rights and responsibilities when it comes to pets and emotional support animals in your rental property.

What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

An ESA is an emotional support animal. These animals provide companionship, love, and support to people who have emotional or psychological disorders. ESAs are not specifically trained to perform a task, but their mere presence can provide relief and comfort to their owners. The most common types of ESAs are dogs and cats, but any type of animal can be an ESA.

Do ESAs Have to be Registered?

The simple answer regarding whether emotional support animals (ESAs) need to be registered is no; there is no legal requirement for ESAs to be registered in order to be considered legitimate. According to U.S. federal law, specifically under the Fair Housing Act, legitimacy of an ESA is established through documentation from a licensed healthcare professional. This documentation must state that the individual has a disability and that the ESA provides necessary emotional support to alleviate one or more identified symptoms or effects of the disability.

ESAs play a vital role for their owners, serving not just as pets, but as companions that offer crucial emotional support, helping to ease anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. While owning an ESA comes with significant benefits, it also entails responsibilities, including the proper management and care of the animal. However, unlike service animals, ESAs do not need to undergo specific training for tasks or behaviors.

Instead of registration, the focus for ESA owners should be on obtaining the appropriate documentation from a healthcare provider. Once obtained, this documentation can be presented to landlords or housing providers as proof of the ESA's legitimacy and the individual's right to live with their animal. It's important to be aware that while numerous online platforms advertise ESA registration and certification services, these are not recognized by federal law and are unnecessary for establishing an ESA's legitimacy.

Related Reading: Can a Landlord Be Sued For Emotional Distress?

What Types of Animals Can Be Designated an ESA?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it largely depends on the individual circumstances of the person in question. However, in general, most people who qualify for an emotional service animal will be able to choose any type of animal that provides them with the necessary emotional support. This could include anything from a cat or dog to a snake or bird.

It is important to note that not all animals can be considered an ESA. In order to qualify, the animal must provide a specific type of emotional support that is not available from other sources. For example, simply providing companionship is not enough to qualify an animal as an ESA. The animal must be able to provide some type of emotional relief that helps the person cope with a specific condition, such as anxiety or depression.

What Does and ESA Registration Mean?

An ESA certification means that an animal companion has been evaluated by a qualified professional and determined to provide therapeutic benefits to the owner. This designation allows them to live with their animal in most “no pet” housing and to bring their ESA with them in the cabin of an airplane, free of charge.

What Rights Do Tenants with an ESA Have?

Tenants with emotional support animals (ESAs) are protected under the Fair Housing Act, allowing them to live with their ESAs in their homes, despite pet policies. This law prevents landlords from charging pet fees for ESAs but requires tenants to provide proper documentation from a healthcare professional. Unlike service animals, ESAs do not have the right to access all public areas within a dwelling; their access is limited to the tenant's private living space and possibly pet-allowed common areas, based on the property's policies. ESAs must be well-behaved and not pose a threat or cause damage to the property. Landlords can enforce removal if an ESA becomes a nuisance or danger.

Is It Legal for a Landlord to Reject an ESA?

Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords are required to accommodate tenants with ESAs unless doing so would impose an undue financial burden, fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider's services, or if the specific ESA poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation. Landlords cannot reject an ESA based solely on breed, size, or weight limitations. If a landlord determines there is a valid reason to deny an ESA, they must provide a rationale for the denial and engage in a dialogue about possible accommodations. Automatic eviction for having an ESA is not lawful; landlords must follow state-specific eviction procedures and prove one of the allowed reasons for denying an ESA applies.

Valid reasons for denying pets or emotional support animals

As a landlord, you may have valid reasons for denying the presence of pets or emotional support animals in your rental properties. While it is important to understand the legal requirements and exceptions, you have the right to enforce certain rules to protect your property and ensure a safe and comfortable environment for all tenants.

Some reasons for denying pets or emotional support animals include:

Property damage: Pets can cause significant damage to rental properties, including scratching, chewing, or staining floors and carpets. Emotional support animals may also cause damage if not properly trained or managed.

Allergies: Some tenants may have severe allergies to pets or emotional support animals, which can cause health problems and make it difficult to live in the rental property.

Noise disturbances: Some pets, such as dogs and birds, can be noisy and disruptive, which can cause issues for other tenants and neighbors.

Violation of lease terms: If the lease agreement explicitly prohibits pets or emotional support animals, you may have the right to deny their presence as part of the contract.

It is important to communicate any pet-related policies clearly to prospective tenants and enforce them consistently to avoid any confusion or disputes. Additionally, having comprehensive landlord insurance coverage can provide added protection against potential damages or liability issues related to pets or emotional support animals.

Related Reading: 10 Things a Landlord Can't Do

Exceptions for Emotional Support Animals: Landlord Insurance Considerations

While landlords generally have the right to deny pets in their rental properties, there are exceptions for emotional support animals (ESAs) under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). According to the FHA, landlords must make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who require ESAs, even if their rental property has a "no pets" policy.

However, landlords can require documentation and verification for ESAs to ensure they are legitimate. This documentation may include letters from healthcare professionals or other official certifications. Landlords must also be mindful of their insurance policies when dealing with ESAs in their rental properties.

What Happens if a Landlord Rejects an ESA?

If a landlord rejects an ESA, the individual may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will investigate the complaint and if they find that the landlord discriminated against the individual, the landlord may be fined or required to take corrective action.

What Can a Landlord do if an ESA Becomes a Problem?

If an ESA becomes a problem, the landlord may be able to require that the owner find another place to live. If the problem is serious enough, the landlord may be able to evict them.

A landlord may request a tenant with an emotional support animal to vacate the premises for a number of reasons. The animal may be creating a disturbance, such as barking excessively or urinating inside the rental unit. The animal may also pose a threat to the safety of other tenants or the landlord's property. In some cases, the landlord may simply not allow pets on the premises. 

If the tenant does not comply with the landlord's request to remove the emotional support animal, the landlord may begin eviction proceedings.

If you have a tenant with an emotional support animal (ESA), there are a few things you need to know. First, the animal must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. Second, the animal must be trained to behave appropriately in public. Third, you cannot charge the tenant a pet deposit or pet rent for the animal.

As the landlord, you should also be aware of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination against tenants with disabilities. This means that you cannot refuse to rent to a tenant with an ESA or treat them differently than other tenants.

If you have any questions or concerns about a tenant's ESA, you should contact a qualified attorney for guidance.

Considerations for Allowing Pets in Rental Properties

Landlords have the right to decide whether to allow pets in their rental properties, and it's essential to consider the potential risks and benefits of doing so. While some landlords may prefer to have a no-pet policy to avoid property damage and other issues, others may allow pets to appeal to a wider range of tenants. However, landlords should also be aware of the potential liability and insurance considerations that come with allowing pets on their rental properties.

Insurance Considerations for Pets in Rental Properties:

Before allowing pets in their rental properties, landlords should review their landlord insurance policy to ensure they have coverage for pet-related damages. Some insurance policies may exclude certain types of animals or require additional coverage for pet-related damages. Landlords should also consider requiring tenants to have renters insurance that covers pet-related damages.

Screening Tenants with Pets:

It's important to have a proper screening process for tenants with pets. Landlords should consider asking for references from previous landlords, as well as requiring a security deposit to cover any damages caused by pets. It may also be helpful to establish specific pet-related policies, such as restrictions on the number or size of pets, to minimize potential risks.

Local Laws and Regulations:

Landlords should also be aware of any local laws or regulations regarding pets in rental properties. Some cities may have specific requirements for registering pets or may restrict certain types of animals from being kept as pets in rental properties. It's important to research and comply with these laws to avoid legal issues or fines.

Overall, allowing pets in rental properties can be beneficial for landlords, but it's important to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits. By having proper insurance coverage, implementing clear pet-related policies, and complying with local laws and regulations, landlords can minimize potential risks and ensure a positive rental experience for both themselves and their tenants.

Interaction with Other Tenants:

Having an ESA comes with the responsibility to ensure that the animal does not become a nuisance or a source of discomfort for other tenants. This includes:

  • Noise Management: Especially in multi-unit dwellings, ESA owners should take steps to minimize any excessive noise made by their animal, such as barking or squawking, which could disturb neighbours.
  • Hygiene and Cleanliness: Maintaining good hygiene practices for the ESA is crucial. This includes regular grooming and ensuring that areas shared with other tenants are kept clean from animal waste or fur.
  • Proper Supervision: ESAs should be under control at all times. This means ensuring that the animal does not roam freely in shared spaces or enter other tenants' private areas without permission.
  • Respect for Common Areas: ESA owners should respect shared spaces such as gardens, walkways, and laundry rooms, ensuring their animal does not cause damage or leave behind messes.
  • Awareness of Allergies and Fears: Some tenants may have allergies or phobias related to animals. ESA owners should be considerate and try to minimize their animal's impact on these individuals.

Understanding Landlord Insurance

As a landlord, it is essential to protect your investment and rental property with the right type of insurance coverage. Landlord insurance, also known as property owner insurance or rental property insurance, provides various coverage options tailored to the unique needs of landlords.

What is Landlord Insurance?

Landlord insurance is a type of insurance policy specifically designed for property owners who rent out their properties. This insurance policy provides coverage for various risks and liabilities associated with landlord responsibilities.

Why is Landlord Insurance Important?

Landlord insurance is important because it provides financial protection and peace of mind for landlords. Rental property insurance protects against property damage, legal disputes, loss of rental income, and other unforeseen events. Without proper coverage, landlords may face significant financial losses.

Types of Landlord Insurance

Landlord Liability Insurance: Protects landlords from legal and financial obligations if a tenant or visitor gets injured on the property.Landlord Building Insurance: Covers the structure of the building itself, including damages caused by natural disasters, fire, and vandalism.Landlord Contents Insurance: Covers the landlord's belongings inside the rental property, including appliances, furniture, and other personal items.

Do You Need Landlord Insurance?

Yes, if you are a landlord, you need landlord insurance. If you rent out a property and do not have proper insurance coverage, you could face significant financial losses and legal issues in case of unforeseen events.

Investing in the right type of landlord insurance coverage is crucial for landlords to safeguard their rental properties and investments. It's important to consult with an insurance professional to determine the best coverage options for your specific needs.

Importance of Landlord Insurance Coverage

As a landlord, it is essential to have proper insurance coverage to protect your investments and provide financial security for any unforeseen events. Landlord insurance coverage can also protect you from lawsuits, property damage, and loss of rental income.

Landlord insurance policies can vary depending on the insurance provider, but they generally provide coverage for:

Property Damage: Protection against damage caused by natural disasters, fire, theft, vandalism, and other unforeseen events.

Liability Coverage: Protection against lawsuits filed by tenants or visitors who are injured on the rental property.

Loss of Rental Income: Compensation for lost rent due to property damage or other covered losses.

Having proper landlord insurance coverage can give landlords peace of mind and protect them from financial losses. It is important to review insurance policies carefully and understand any exclusions or limitations in coverage.

Landlords should also consider the potential risks and liabilities associated with allowing pets or emotional support animals in their rental properties. Some insurance policies may exclude certain types of animals or require additional coverage for pet-related damages.

Benefits of Landlord Insurance

  • Financial protection against property damage and loss of rental income
  • Liability coverage for lawsuits filed by tenants or visitors who are injured on the rental property
  • Peace of mind knowing that your rental property is protected

Having proper landlord insurance coverage is crucial for landlords to protect their investments and financial security. It is important to review insurance policies carefully and understand any limitations or exclusions in coverage. Consider working with an insurance professional who specializes in landlord insurance to ensure you have the proper coverage for your unique needs.

Landlord Insurance and Emotional Support Animals

Landlord insurance provides coverage for various risks and liabilities associated with rental properties, including those related to emotional support animals. However, not all landlord insurance policies cover damages caused by emotional support animals.

Landlords should review their insurance policies to understand their coverage and determine if they need additional coverage for emotional support animals. Some insurance policies may exclude certain types of animals or require additional coverage for pet-related damages.

Conclusion

In conclusion, being a landlord comes with many responsibilities, including deciding whether to allow pets or emotional support animals in your rental properties. While landlords have the right to deny these animals under certain circumstances, it is important to understand the legal requirements and potential exceptions.

Having proper landlord insurance coverage can provide added security and protection against unforeseen events. It is crucial for landlords to review their insurance policies to ensure they provide coverage for damages caused by pets or emotional support animals, and to establish clear pet-related policies to minimize potential risks.

Remember to communicate openly and clearly with tenants, seek professional advice if needed, and stay informed about your legal rights and responsibilities as a landlord. With comprehensive landlord insurance and responsible decision-making, you can protect your rental properties and investments for the long term.

Sources

  • https://www.certapet.com/emotional-support-animal/
  • https://usserviceanimals.org/
  • https://www.servicedogcertifications.org/how-to-qualify-for-an-emotional-support-animal/

This post is for informational purposes only and does not serve as legal, financial, or tax advice. Consult your own legal, financial, or tax advisor for matters mentioned here. Steadily is not liable for any actions taken based on this information. If you believe any of this information may be inaccurate please contact us.

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