Pets are pets. Emotional Support Animals are not pets.
Landlords can often be confused when dealing with a tenant applying to rent their property with an Emotional Support Animal.
Regarding their Emotional Support Animal (ESA):
- Can you legally turn them away? No.
- What if you have a “no pet” policy? Can you turn them away then? Still no.
- What if your HOA doesn't allow pets? Still no.
- What if your insurance doesn't allow pets? Probably not reasonable for you to deny them based on that. Are you seeing a pattern here?
- What if it is considered a “dangerous breed” and banned in the city?
- Can you charge pet rent for an Emotional Support Animal? Did you catch the part above where I said they're not pets? So, no.
- What about a pet deposit? Uhhhh… what part of “they're not pets” was unclear? 🙂
- Can I just charge them more in rent to deal with the possible/likely damage? That would be a negative ghostrider.
- Does the tenant need to “prove” their disability to me? See the guidance document for details.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Just because they have an ESA, does not mean they don't have to otherwise qualify for the rental property. It does NOT give them a free pass with other qualifications.
The Department of Housing and Urband Development (aka HUD) has come out with some additional guidance for landlords which they are calling Assessing a Person's Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act.
If you are managing your own properties, I strongly recommend you read and implement their best practices in your own property management.
If you've hired a property manager to manage your properties, I am assuming you hired a top-notch company that knows these rules already and is implementing them on your behalf.
If you're working with a less experienced, part-time or—in any way—doubt that your professional property manager is following these guidelines, might I suggest you send them a link and ask if they're already following these guidelines? Yes, I might suggest that.
Brian did cover some updates to Emotional Support Animals in the Insider's Secrets to Real Estate Investing Philosophies class and in the Arguably the Best Class of the Year – Part 4 class.
You'd be calling the wrong person.
You should be checking with your attorney, not your fellow real estate investor who happens to be a real estate broker. We do not receive legal training on Emotional Support Animals when we learn how to market and sell properties.
Your attorney, who went to law school, is going to be able to tell you what your legal obligations and legal exposure is in unusual situations with Emotional Support Animals. They'll usually help you mitigate your exposure by suggesting you do a specific course of action.
So, call your attorney if any “but, what about if” situations come to mind.