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What Tampa Landlords Need to Know about Emotional Support Animals

A Tampa Tenant Moving In to a Rental Home with her Emotional Support Animal

The first image that typically comes to mind when somebody hears about assistance animals is that of a dog wearing a red vest guiding a blind person. However, there is a growing trend of emotional support animals. As a Tampa landlord, do you need to rent to a tenant with an emotional support animal?

To start with, let’s understand the differences between service animals and emotional support animals. Service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and are exclusively trained to provide aid, do work, or perform tasks for individuals with disabilities. They also can know and act upon specific medical conditions. An emotional support animal (ESA) assists people who need either emotional or psychological support and is covered by the Federal Fair Housing Act. These animals are characterized by the intimate emotional and supportive bond between the animal and its owner.

To make use of the benefits of having an ESA, a tenant must obtain a letter from a medical professional, like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker, though any medical professional can provide it. The letter should specify that the animal is essential, as well as which kind of animal they use as their ESA. Moreover, a tenant requesting to have more than one ESA must submit a separate letter for every animal.

The most common conditions that ESAs provide aid for are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, fears or phobias, panic disorder or panic attacks, mood disorders, personality disorders, seasonal affective disorder, and social anxiety disorder. However, ESAs are not restricted to these conditions. Any animal can be an ESA if the tenant provides a letter of endorsement from a licensed mental health professional. Even existing pets can be ESAs if the medical professional can verify that the patient’s current pet is giving fundamental mental support to the patient’s well-being.

Unlike standard service animals, emotional support animals are not required by law to have any special training or experience to be allowed to help someone that needs support. However, they are regarded as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). You as a landlord cannot refuse a verified ESA owner’s request for reasonable accommodation unless you meet guidelines established in your state as a tenant landlord owner, such as renting out the basement of your property wherein you reside on the main floor. Additionally, you cannot ask for an advance deposit or extra fees for ESAs unless the ESA owner allows the animal to be a nuisance or damage is done to the rental home, much as with any tenant or guest in a rental setting.

In Conclusion

The above is a common overview of FHA guidelines for ESAs, but you will have to check state guidelines as there may be more state-specific guidelines on ESAs. Real Property Management TradeWinds is knowledgeable about the Fair Housing Act requirements and how they affect you as a Tampa landlord. We can help you navigate these requirements to make sure that you are in compliance when renting to people with emotional support animals.

Interested in learning more? Please contact us online or call us at 727-400-4722 for more information.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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