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What Every Rental Property Owner Needs to Know About Support Animals

Danny Harlow - Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Property Management Blog

If you're a landlord or property manager in Boise, you probably have a clearly outlined policy on whether your property allows pets. As you perform your tenant screening process, you probably look into whether the prospective tenant has any pets.

Your property management company has the right to various pet policies. However, as a property manager, you need to understand the distinction between pets and support animals.

If this is a term you don't know, you're not alone. Many landlords get caught off-guard when they encounter their first emotional support animal (ESA) letter. To help you manage this issue, we've gathered some crucial facts you need to know.

Tenants Require Signed Letters For ESA 

If a tenant informs you that they require an emotional support animal, they must present you a letter from a licensed mental health professional. This letter explains that the tenant suffers from a condition that requires an animal companion.

Several conditions could lead to this need. The tenant doesn't have to disclose the nature of their condition. However, they do need to show proof that their animal is a licensed ESA.

You also retain the freedom to call the professional that issued the letter with questions. However, you cannot request access to the tenant's medical records. 

Support Animals Do Not Count As Pets

Support animals come with eviction protection specifically because they don't qualify as pets. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development clarifies that support animals work to provide assistance. 

Because of this, if a tenant has a support dog (or other animals), you will have to make changes to your policies to accommodate the animal on the property.

Possible Increases In Liability Insurance

While your tenant has the right to support animals, it doesn't mean your property remains unchanged by this inclusion. If your tenant has an ESA, the animal isn't subject to regulations regarding restricted breeds and weight limits. 

However, if your tenant's ESA exceeds these limits, it could cause your property to have an increase in liability insurance. This increase causes the landlord to pay more or lose their policy.

Can You Refuse A Tenant's Service Animal?

However uncomfortable you may be with an ESA, your tenant has the right to one. During your lease management, you can't nullify the lease because of an ESA.

Moreover, you cannot refuse a tenant based on whether they need a service dog or not. Doing so legally amounts to discrimination, which the law prohibits. 

If your insurance doesn't provide for certain ESAs, you must consult with the company about whether you can keep your insurance. If not, you may be able to take your case to court. 

Get The Professional Help You Need

Support animals can throw a wrench in your usual rent and housing policies. If you're unsure how to handle an ESA situation, it may be time to call in professionals. 

If so, give us a call! We offer the best property management services in Boise, Idaho. Our services can help ensure you manage your property efficiently. 


Danny Harlow

Regional Vice President