Accommodating Tenants: An Atlanta Landlord's Guide to Support Animals

Accommodating Tenants: An Atlanta Landlord's Guide to Support Animals

You have decided not to allow pets in your rental property. So, you reject all applicants that list an animal. Not so fast!

While you can not allow pets, you cannot blanket ban service and support animals. If you are rejecting potential tenants because they have a service or emotional support animal, you could be violating the law. This can set you up for expensive lawsuits.

This guide will help you understand how to accommodate tenants with support animals.

The Fair Housing Act

Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords cannot discriminate against a list of protected classes. One of those is disabilities. You cannot deny a potential tenant simply because they have a service or companion animal.

Verifying a Tenant's Service Animal

Unfortunately, not every applicant is honest. Some people who understand the law may try to claim their pet is a fake service or emotional support animal. This presents a challenge for landlords who want to follow the law but also not get taken advantage of.

There is a certification or registry that you can check. However, you can ask for reliable documentation. You cannot require a specific form.

Typically, the tenant will provide a letter from their medical care provider. It will affirm the person's disability and how the animal helps the individual.

Types of ESAs

Part of the confusion about allowing service animals is that there are different types. Service or assistance animals do one or more tasks for their person. A seeing-eye dog or a cat trained to detect seizures would be in this category.

The other type is emotional support animals. These animals are not trained to do a specific task but provide emotional support and comfort to their owner.

Security Deposits and Fees

If a tenant has a pet, you can charge a pet deposit and pet rent if you choose to. However, this is not allowed when the tenant's animal qualifies under ESA laws. Doing so would discriminate against the person with the disability.

You also can't impose size or breed restrictions, which would qualify as discrimination.

Landlord Protections

There are laws in place that allow you to protect your rental housing. The tenant is required to clean up after their animal. They are also required to ensure the animal does not damage the property.

If you do find service animal-caused damage in one of your rental properties, you can seek recovery from the tenant. If the animal creates a nuisance, you can seek legal remedy to have the animal removed.

Accept Support Animals in Your Rental

As a landlord, you must follow the law to ensure you do not discriminate against a protected individual. While you may not want to allow pets, you must allow service and support animals. Working with an experienced property manager can help you establish a screening process that ensures you protect your property and comply with the law.

Work with our property managers to evaluate your policies, ensure you comply with ESA laws, and respect tenant rights.