Pets can be complicated for landlords. Many of us have animals of our own, and we treat them like part of the family. However, with tenants and pets, there’s always a risk for property damage. Most tenants in the Spring Hill area have a pet, so if you decide not to allow pets in your property, you may be facing a longer vacancy period. It will take you a little longer to find a good tenant who doesn’t have one.
Today, we aren’t only discussing pets. We’re talking about the difference between pets and service animals.
Restrictions on Pets and Pet Policies
A family or household pet is not protected by any fair housing or anti-discrimination laws. You can be as restrictive as you want with your pet policy. Some landlords will only accept dogs or only accept cats. You can put a limit on age, size, and number. You also have the freedom to ask for a pet deposit, which we strongly recommend. A pet deposit is separate from your security deposit, and it can be used to pay for any damages that the pet causes. Some landlords also charge pet rent.
It’s a good idea to consider dog breed when you allow dogs. Many insurance companies won’t provide coverage when you are renting to a tenant with a dangerous breed. Check with your insurer before you allow dogs like Pit Bulls, German shepherds, or Dobermans.
Service Animals Are Not Pets
A service animal is used by someone with a physical or intellectual disability. The person relies on the service animal to complete essential life tasks. Service animals are not considered pets. The law sees a service animal as an accommodation you are required to make based on The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This carries a lot of weight when you have a tenant applying for your property with a service animal. You are not permitted to deny the application based on the animal. You should still put your prospective tenant through the regular screening process, but if that tenant qualifies, you’ll need to accept him or her even with the service animal.
You also aren’t allowed to charge a pet deposit or pet rent. You cannot make restrictions on breed, size, or age. You have to accept the animal that supports and serves the tenant.
Following the Legal Requirements
People with disabilities are protected by both the ADA and The Fair Housing Act. If you discriminate against someone with a disability, you could face expensive and complicated legal challenges. It’s important that you understand the guidelines and the laws as they pertain to service animals. Emotional support animals also provide a service for tenants with disabilities, and they are a little less regulated and identifiable than service animals. A tenant with an emotional support animal often needs the animal to manage psychological or emotional issues.
If you’re unsure about what to do when a tenant needs a service animal or an emotional support animal, contact us at A+ Realty Management. We can also help you with your pet policy and pet screening.