Property Management Blog

The Ins and Outs of Allowing Support Animals in Your Rental Units

The Ins and Outs of Allowing Support Animals in Your Rental Units

Did you know that guide dogs have been around as a concept since the 16th century

Though dogs for the blind are the most well-known support animal, they aren't the only way pets have been used to support people. Animals can help those with autism, ADHD, grief, and cancer.

If you are a landlord, you need to know about support animals and whether you should allow them in your San Mateo rental units. Read on for the full facts. 

What Are Support Animals? 

If you haven't heard the term support animals before, you probably assume it's another term for pets. But a support animal is different. It's an animal that a resident needs for one of three reasons: service, therapy, or emotional needs.  

Service (Disability Support)

The service animal is probably the most well-known. You'll find animals such as guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired in this category.

Therapy Support 

A therapy animal provides therapeutic support to a group of people, and this type of animal goes through training. You might see therapy animals such as dogs in hospitals visiting patients (especially in children's wards). 

Emotional Support 

Emotional support animals assist those with disabilities. They differ from service animals as they are not trained, so the support is emotional rather than practical. 

The Pros and Cons

As a landlord, there are some advantages and disadvantages to supporting animals on your property. Here is what you need to know. 

The advantages of having support animals include the following: 

  • You're providing support for tenants in line with legal obligations
  • You'll have happier tenants who value your support

Disadvantages of having support animals include: 

Your tenant might need to make minor modifications to the property (e.g., a cat door) 

Animals may cause noise and disturbance to neighbors

While there are drawbacks, knowing your legal obligations as a landlord is essential. We've covered them in the next section. 

Allowing Support Animals in Your Rental Property  

It's essential to know the law regarding support animals. Here are the circumstances where you will need to approve a support animal in your rental property.  

Support animals fall under federal housing laws. According to the law, you are legally obligated to accommodate support animals if you have an ESA (emotional support animal registered) tenant.

The law uses the term reasonable, but you are only obligated to meet these requirements if it's reasonable, practical, and safe. 

The ESA means a tenant must have registered emotional support animals and cannot claim any pet is a support animal.  

Can You Forbid Support Animals?

There are some drawbacks to having support animals in your rental property. And pets might not be practical in your building. So here are some facts to know when you can halt a tenancy

Since the law uses the term reasonable, you only need to do what is reasonably necessary to accommodate an ESA animal. Appropriate action would be to change a no-pet rule for your property.

But an unreasonable action would be expecting you to build a stable for a horse.

In other words, you aren't required to change your property to accommodate a support animal. Still, you must overrule no-pet tenancy agreements if a tenant has a support animal. 

Accepting Support Animals

The best way to manage a request for support animals is to check the suitability of your property. If you can accommodate the animal with a simple rule change, your tenancy can go ahead.

If you can't, and your accommodation needs significant modifications, it's essential to tell a tenant that as early as possible.

It's a good idea to have a property management service in place to help manage complexities like animals. You can contact us here to find out what we offer in the San Mateo region. 

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