CategoriesRental Property

Support Animals in Rental Properties: A Guide for Landlords in Memphis

support animals

Are you a landlord in Memphis, Tennessee? Are you feeling uncertain about navigating the world of support animals in rental properties? It’s not uncommon to find yourself in unfamiliar territory when it comes to accommodating tenants with support animals. 

However, fear not! With our guidance, you will confidently navigate this terrain. Keep reading for information that will allow compliance with fair housing laws and the support of tenants with disabilities. This comprehensive guide looks into what you need to know about accepting tenants with support animals in your Memphis rental properties.

Understanding Support Animals

It’s important to understand that support animals aren’t pets. Support animals, including emotional support animals (ESAs), play a vital role in providing comfort and assistance to individuals with disabilities. As per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), support animals are not seen as pets but as companions that offer therapeutic benefits to their owners. 

When drafting rental policies, landlords must understand the difference between support animals and traditional pets.

Different animals are considered suitable support animals, such as:

  • Dogs

  • Cats

  • Miniature horses

  • Birds

  • Rabbits

  • Miniature pigs

  • Guinea pigs

  • Fish

  • Reptiles

Navigating Disability Laws

In Tennessee, landlords must follow federal and state laws about supporting animals in rental properties. Federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA,  give general rules, but Tennessee also has its own laws that landlords must follow.

If you don’t follow these laws, you can be hit with various penalties and fines, not to mention if someone pursues legal action against you.

Here are some specific laws in Tennessee that also guide the management of support animals by landlords:

Fair Housing Act (FHA)

The FHA prevents discrimination in housing based on disability status. This includes allowing tenants with disabilities to have support animals, even in properties with no-pet policies. 

Landlords in Tennessee must comply with the FHA and make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who require support animals.

Tennessee Code Annotated Title 66, Chapter 28, Part 3

This part of Tennessee’s laws deals with discrimination in housing because of a disability. Landlords can’t say no to renting to people with disabilities or make them agree to different rules just because they have a support animal.

Tennessee Code Annotated Title 55, Chapter 8, Part 1

This section of Tennessee law explains what tenants and landlords can and can’t do. It doesn’t talk directly about support animals, but it sets up rules for how landlords and tenants should treat each other. This includes the requirement to make fair adjustments for tenants with disabilities.

Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA)

The Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA) stops discrimination in different areas, like housing, because of disability. Landlords in Tennessee have to follow the THRA and make sure they treat people with disabilities fairly, including those who need support animals.

Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA)

URLTA, or the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, sets rules for landlords and tenants in rental homes, although it doesn’t specifically mention support animals. Landlords have to stick to the URLTA rules, which might mean they have to make fair changes for tenants with disabilities according to fair housing laws.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stops discrimination against people with disabilities in different places, such as housing. This means landlords can’t refuse to rent to someone or make them agree to a different set of rules just because they have a support animal.

Support Animal Rental Policies

As a landlord, you need to understand how to rent to tenants with support animals. Consider the following to help you uphold fair housing laws and create a welcoming and inclusive environment for your tenants.

Familiarize Yourself With Applicable Laws

Start by educating yourself on federal, state, and local fair housing laws that govern renting to tenants with support animals. Without this basic knowledge, you won’t know where to start.

Understand the Difference Between Service Animals and Support Animals

Service animals are trained to aid people with disabilities by performing specific tasks. Support animals, like emotional support animals (ESAs), give comfort and support through companionship. Both types are protected by fair housing laws.

Review Your Rental Policies

Review your rental policies, including those about pets, to make sure they follow fair housing laws. Remember, you can enforce rules about pet cleanliness and behavior, but you need to make special allowances for support animals as reasonable accommodations.

A well-crafted pet policy should include information on:

  • Definition of support animals

  • Request process

  • No pet fees for support animals

  • Behavior and responsibilities

  • Health and Safety

  • Breed and size restrictions

  • Legal compliance

Request Documentation

If a tenant asks for a support animal, you can request written documentation from a licensed healthcare provider. This will verify that the person has a disability and needs the animal for support. But you can’t ask for specific details about their disability.

Communicate Clearly With Tenants

Maintain open communication with tenants who have support animals. Discuss any issues or concerns regarding the animal’s behavior or care promptly and professionally. Having clear expectations can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts.

Ensure Accessibility

Make any necessary modifications to your rental property to accommodate tenants with disabilities and their support animals. This may include providing:

  • Accessible entrances

  • Accommodating service animal access

  • Ensuring common areas are accessible and fenced in

  • Pet-friendly flooring

  • Waste management stations

Stay Informed and Find Legal Advice if Needed 

Stay informed about any updates to fair housing laws regarding support animals. If you’re not sure about your responsibilities or rights as a landlord, talk to a lawyer who knows about fair housing law and can give advice as needed.

Support Animals: Final Thoughts

Support animals are essential for helping people with disabilities by giving them assistance and comfort. By supporting tenants with support animals, we promote inclusivity and show our dedication to fair housing in the Memphis rental market.

Reedy & Company Realtors LLC is here to help with any questions or needs related to support animals. We’ve been helping landlords and tenants since 2002 and take pride in offering top-notch property management services to all our clients. Contact us today and discover why we’re trusted to manage over 3,500 properties.