Do you allow tenants to keep pets in your rental property? If not, you may be missing out on a large pool of potential renters. Since implementing the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, tenants with service animals have been afforded rights for “reasonable accommodation.” However, with the emergence of assistance animals, tenants looking for rentals with pets have increased. In this article, we’re looking at what landlords in Brevard County need to know about service animals.
What are Service Animals?
Service animals are animals trained to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. This includes a physical, psychiatric, sensory, intellectual, or other mental disability. Service animals are typically dogs; however, a small horse may qualify in rare circumstances. Because of their essential role, service animals are usually professionally trained and exceptionally well behaved. They are also recognized by the ADA (American Disabilities Act).
What are Assistance Animals?
Assistance animals, sometimes referred to as support, emotional support, companion, or comfort animals, are pets that help mitigate the emotional or psychological symptoms of their handler’s condition or disorder. Although usually a dog or a cat, assistance animals can technically be any breed of animal. In addition, assistance animals are not required to perform a disability-specific task.
Service Animals & Fair Housing Regulations
Under Florida’s service animal law, service dogs and other assistance animals are entitled to full and equal access to housing. As a landlord, you cannot require a tenant to pay extra to have a service animal. However, you can hold tenants liable for any damages their service animal causes to your rental property or another person.
According to the Fair Housing regulations, a service animal is not classified as a pet. They are animals that work, provide assistance, or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. They can also provide emotional support that alleviates some of their handlers’ disability symptoms.
Support Animals and Florida Housing
As of 2020, landlords in Florida must make reasonable accommodations for tenants and their emotional support animals. Florida law prohibits discrimination against tenants “to the extent required by federal law.” This means that landlords should treat tenants with emotional support animals with the same protections provided to emotional support animals under the federal Fair Housing Act.
It’s also important to note that there is no requirement for a tenant to provide a special certification for their service animal under Fair Housing regulations. Landlords are also not permitted to request proof of disability unless the disability is non-obvious or obvious but without an obvious need. If evidence of need is asked for, landlords can ask for written verification from a “qualified professional or person to know.” This could include, but is not limited to:
- Physician’s Assistant, RN
- Vocational rehabilitation counselor
- Case manager
In addition, landlords are not permitted to discriminate against the breed, size, weight, or species of a service or emotional support animal or limit the number of service animals a person or household can have. However, a landlord can deny a reasonable accommodation request for an emotional support animal if it poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or poses a threat of damage to property (provided that the threats cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation).
Brevard County Landlord Rights
If you’re a landlord in Brevard County who would like to learn more about the Fair Housing Act, contact us today. At Rent In Brevard Property Management, our licensed and knowledgeable property managers have many years of experience and can help guide you through all aspects of the rental process. From marketing your rental, to property maintenance and liaising with tenants, we provide a comprehensive property management service to keep you and your tenants happy.