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Everything That Landlords Need to Know About Support Animals

System - Tuesday, December 7, 2021

In North Carolina, an individual may qualify for an emotional support animal if they meet certain mental or emotional criteria. What does this have to do with your rental properties?

Typically, it's up to a property owner to decide whether or not a rental property is pet-free. However, emotional support animals aren't considered typical pets.

Believe it or not, your pet restrictions won't supersede emotional support animal laws. What are the requirements you must meet when faced with an emotional support animal?

Read on to find out everything you need to know if your applicants or existing tenants have emotional support animals.

Can Tenants Have Support Animals in a No-Pet Rental?

If you have a no-pet policy for your rental properties, you may be thinking, "Support animals have nothing to do with me!" However, this is not the case.

Emotional support animals do not have as many protections as service dogs in North Carolina. However, you still must abide by the Fair Housing Act clause that states that tenants with emotional support animals are entitled to accommodations. 

In other words, you cannot deny an applicant based solely on the fact that they own an emotional support animal. You also cannot allow an existing tenant to own an emotional support animal while living in your rental property. 

Can You Ask for Proof of Registration?

When you or your property manager discover that an applicant or tenant has an emotional support animal, can you ask for proof of registration?

Applicants and tenants must provide you with what is commonly referred to as an ESA letter. This letter must be written and signed by a healthcare provider. The letter must state that the applicant or tenant requires the use of an ESA to cope with a specific mental or emotional disability.

Can you ask what that disability is? In some cases, you may be granted permission by the applicant or tenant to contact their healthcare provider. However, under no circumstances are you entitled to the applicant or tenant's medical history.

Can You Protect Your Property from a Support Animal?

If you have a no-pet policy, it's probably because you're hoping to avoid increased liability or additional damage to your property. Most property owners that allow pets charge a pet fee, something you cannot do when an applicant or tenant has an emotional support animal.

In some cases, your liability insurance may increase due to the presence of the support animal. If the increase is drastic, you may have some success in court arguing that the animal is putting undue strain on your finances. 

That being said, most property owners will find that they must comply with the Fair Housing Act and permit emotional service animals on their rental properties.

Rely on Wilkinson Property Management for Guidance 

Keeping up with tenant rights isn't always easy. Even the laws surrounding emotional support animals are subject to change in the coming years.

When you partner with Wilkinson Property Management, you can rest assured that your properties are run according to the law. To find out more about our property management services, contact us today.