MUST LANDLORDS ALLOW SERVICE DOGS & EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS?

emotional support and service dogs

Where I rent properties near Springfield, MO, it’s common for people to have service dogs or emotional support animals.  In this post, I’ll be shedding some light on how landlords are required to respond to applicants or tenants with these animals.  

What is an emotional support animal?

Also known as “ESA” or simply “support animal”, an emotional support animal has been deemed by a medical professional as a companion animal that provides benefit for an individual with a disability.  They are typically dogs but could be other animals as well.

What is a service dog?

A service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Do landlords have to accept emotional support animals & service dogs?

According to tenantresourcecenter.org, this is a special situation where the landlord’s pet policy does not apply. A service animal or emotional support animal should not be considered a “pet.” They should be treated, from the landlord’s perspective, like a piece of medical equipment.

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Federal Laws

Because federal fair housing laws require landlords to allow reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, the following apply:

  • Landlords may not prohibit a service animal or emotional support animal from living in the unit.
  • Landlords may not charge the tenant extra “pet” rent or a “pet” security deposit for a service or emotional support animal.
  • Landlords may not apply other “pet policy” rules like breed or weight restrictions to service or emotional support animals.

There are two exceptions, when a landlord can deny a service or companion animal:

  • If the landlord lives in the unit, and they or a member of their immediate family have an allergy to the animal.
  • If that specific animal has aggressively threatened someone. (This must be the specific animal in question, and not based on beliefs about behavior from that breed, size, etc.)

Are landlords allowed to charge pet deposits for emotional support animals & service dogs?

Due to Federal Fair Housing Laws, landlords may NOT charge pet deposits for emotional support or service animals.

Final thoughts

Due to federal law, you cannot deny someone tenancy just because they have an emotional support or service animal.  

However, you can protect yourself by first asking the applicant for documentation to verify the animal is used to benefit an applicant with a disability.  

Furthermore, to mitigate the chances of losses incurred from damage by these animals, you can “generally” charge more for security deposits.  By raising security deposits for all tenants you’re not singling out and discriminating against tenants with emotional support and service animals.

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