Being a landlord often means you need to carefully balance your own needs with what would be best for your current or prospective tenants. Few issues are as divisive for landlords and their tenants as the right to have an animal in a rental property.
It is common for landlords to allow pets, but they may not allow certain species or dog breeds or they may limit the weight of the animals. They may also charge an additional deposit or monthly rent for animals in addition to human tenants.
If your tenant or an applicant says they have an emotional support animal, do you have to accommodate their animal even if you don’t allow pets?
You have the right to validate the need for the animal
Unlike service animals, which are usually dogs, emotional support animals come in all shapes and sizes. There have been some very egregious examples of people attempting to use emotional support animal rules for their own benefit.
Certifying a pet as an emotional support animal so that the owner won’t have to pay to take them on an airplane had become a common practice, although airlines have begun cracking down. Landlords can find themselves in a similar position when tenants want animals but don’t want to pay for them.
The law does entitle someone with a disability to keep an animal that can help them. That right extends to emotional support animals. However, you have the right to validate their claims about having a disability and the necessity of the animal.
If all they have is a certificate that they got online or if the animal is aggressive or poses a risk to your property, you may not have to accommodate the request. Getting legal help evaluating the validity of a tenant claim about needing an emotional support animal can prevent you from making a mistake that could either lead to litigation or to damage to your rental property.