CategoriesRental Property

When Can a Landlord Legally Reject an ESA?

when can a landlord legally reject an esa

It’s estimated that one out of five individuals live with a mental health illness. While there are a lot of different treatment options for mental health conditions, one increasingly popular option is an ESA or emotional support animal.

While these furry companions might help with mental health, they can create some friction between tenants and landlords. This is especially true if you have a no-pet policy on your rental properties.

If you have a tenant with a support animal applying to your home you might be asking yourself, When can a landlord legally reject an ESA? And what are some things you can do to protect your property from pets? In this guide, we’ll be answering these questions so that you don’t face any potential legal action for violating federal laws.

What Is An Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals are pets that give companionship and comfort to people with mental health conditions. These animals are important therapy tools as they can help individuals deal with some of their worst symptoms.

Typically, when most people think of emotional support animals they picture dogs and cats. While these are the most common ones they can also include everything from birds and rabbits to fish and even miniature horses.

It’s important to note that an individual cannot just say that their animal is an ESA even if it does serve that function.

To be qualified as such they must get a prescription from their therapist that claims they need it as treatment. Make sure to check out this guide if you want to learn more about these support animals.

How Is It Different From a Service Animal?

Many people often use the term support animal and service animal interchangeably. However, there is an important difference between the two. Emotional support animals aren’t required to have any training.

They don’t need to perform any tasks besides providing comfort with their very presence. Service animals, on the other hand, are trained to assist their owner’s disability.

These might include sight animals for blind people or hearing dogs for deaf individuals. There can also be psychiatric service animals for people with PTSD or autism.

In general, service animals tend to have more laws protecting them. For example, people can have them in public places and on airplanes, which isn’t extended to emotional support animals.

However, for the sake of landlords and living accommodations, both emotional support and service animals do have similar protections.

If You Have a No Pet Policy, Do You Need to Accept an ESA?

Unfortunately, most of the time you will need to accept an emotional support animal in your rental property even if you have a no-pet policy. This applies to both current tenants you have and any future ones as well.

So why is this? It’s because emotional support animals aren’t considered pets. They’re considered reasonable accommodations for people with mental health disabilities.

And according to the Fair Housing Act passed by HUD landlords cannot discriminate against people with disabilities when it comes to renting a home.

In the state of Tennessee, there are also local emotional support animal laws that protect the rights of disabled individuals including:

Tennessee Code Annotated Title 66, Chapter 28, Part 3
Tennessee Code Annotated Title 55, Chapter 8, Part 1
Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA)

What’s more, you also aren’t allowed to charge additional rental fees or a larger security deposit for people with an ESA.

In addition to this, you cannot ask your tenant or potential tenant about their mental health condition or whether or not they need an emotional support animal.

When Can a Landlord Legally Reject an ESA?

As we mentioned, landlords cannot legally reject an emotional support animal outright. However, you’re perfectly within your rights to verify that your tenant has the proper proof of certification for the animal. As your tenant sees their emotional support animal housing letter.

This is issued to them when they get the certification. Verify that this document has the signature of a mental health professional. It should also have a license number and expiration date (these certifications expire each year unless renewed).

If the individual refuses to provide you with this document, or it’s expired, then you are legally within your rights to reject an ESA. However, if the document is valid you will need to accept them regardless of your pet policies.

Ways to Protect Your Property

As we mentioned, you cannot charge extra fees or larger security deposits for an ESA. That being said, there are some ESA rules that need to be followed.

If the animal does damage your property you are within your rights to have the individual pay for any damages. You can also make sure that the animal has all of its vaccines up-to-date.

People with ESAs follow any leash and waste pick-up laws that are in place where they live. And, if the individual needs to meet the sanitary requirements you lay out in your lease agreement.

In short, if the animal poses a threat to your property or your other tenants, you can deny it.

How Can a Property Management Service Help You With ESAs?

A rental property management service can ensure that your rental agreements are legally compliant for people with ESAs. They can also verify that the potential or current tenant has proper and up-to-date documentation for their support animal.

What’s more, they can also help with the increased maintenance and investment property care that might come with having an animal on your property.

And that’s just the way they can help with animals. Property managers also make your life easier by dealing with every annoying aspect of being a landlord, from tenant screenings to rent collection.

Need Help Managing Your Properties? Contact Reedy & Company

We hope this guide helped you answer the question, When can a landlord legally reject an ESA? Here at Reedy & Company, we know how stressful it can be to manage properties, especially if you’re dealing with emotional support animals you weren’t expecting.

That’s why we use our two decades of experience in the industry to come up with solutions to any rental problems you might be having. So if you’re ready to make your life as a landlord easier, get in touch with us today.