What is a Pet Friendly Realtor designation?
Well, it doesn't just mean that a Realtor, such as myself, loves animals. This may be a little obvious by some of my photos on this website. What is does mean is that I have received specialized training in the rights of individuals having Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals as it relates to them obtaining housing.
Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal?
Certified Service Animals are dogs (and possibly other specified animals such as miniature horses) that are highly trained to do a specific task or service for the disabled person. The service can be anything from helping the person navigate through public places, to alerting them to an oncoming seizure or low blood sugar.
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) do not need any specialized training and are there to purely gives comfort and love. Emotional support animals can be dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, lizards, etc. People may use all sorts of animals to give them the emotional support they need to live a fulfilling life. To have an animal considered as an ESA there is specific paperwork that has to be completed by a health care professional indicating that this animal is necessary for the mental health of the individual.
What is the Fair Housing Act and Who Does it Cover?
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that states any person with a mental or physical disability cannot be turned away from housing with their certified service animal or emotional support animal. This includes buildings and apartments that have a “no pets policy” in place. Landlords and apartment managers are required to make a “reasonable accommodation” for both service and emotional support animals.
What Does the Fair Housing Act Not Cover?
Even though you do have rights under the FHA, there are still situations in which a landlord does not have to comply with this Federal law. These include;
When the animal is too large for the accommodation; such as a horse or llama
Buildings that only have 4 (or less units) and the landlord lives in one of them
Single family house that is rented without a real estate agent
What Documents are Required by Landlords for your ESA?
Under the Fair Housng Act, a landlord has the right to ask for proper documentation for your emotional support animal to prove you are in need of its service. This document is in the form of an ESA letter from a mental health professional; which includes licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Your family doctor may be able to prescribe you an ESA if they have training and work with patients with mental health issues, but it may be preferable to go obtain a letter from a specific mental health professional. In addition, the documented letter must be signed and printed using your health professional’s official letterhead.
Some apartment managers require an additional form, that they provide, that must be filled out by your therapist. The therapists that work with ESA physicians can assist you if your landlord requires extra documents.
What Landlords Cannot Ask You for Under the FHA
When it comes to having an ESA, there are very specific rules and regulations set in place by the FHA to protect your rights. Under this policy the landlord is not allowed to;
Make you pay any extra rent or deposit for having an ESA
Cannot ask you about your disability
Cannot make you register your emotional support animal
Require the animal to have any specific training
Refuse to house you because their insurance does not cover ESA’s
However, be aware that the landlord does have a right to ask you to pay for any damages the ESA may cause and he/she can also evict you due to unruly or out-of-control behavior from your ESA.
What If the Landlord Refuses to Comply?
This is when it is best to contact an attorney. They will guide you through the process and make certain your rights are protected.
City, state and federal laws are changing every day with regards to Certified Service Animals and ESA's in their gaining access to public establishments, airlines, etc. and some places can, and have the right, to say "no", period. So, if in doubt, check with your city officials and the city ordinances specific to you.