Walk into any supermarket, restaurant, or other establishment across the country and chances are that you will see a dog, cat, or other pet sporting an emotional support animal vest. Actually, many of these pet owners may not even bother to place the vest on their animal. Unlike service animals like guide dogs or seizure dogs, emotional support animals are often pets who can gain special status. Emotional support animals are supposed to help people overcome anxiety or other psychological ills. Although emotional support animals fulfill an important need, we have also seen abuse when it comes to designating many pets as emotional support animals. To learn more about some of these loopholes, check out our article titled “An emotional support animal or a loophole?“.
Federal law and emotional support animals
Per the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidance, emotional support animals are allowed in homes and apartments. Of course, not all properties allow animals. Therefore, in these cases landlords are allowed to require documentation that there is a need for an emotional support animal. Of course, the vague definition for an emotional support animal has led to numerous organizations and websites offering remote appointments to determine qualifications. These animals ultimately fall under the federal Fair Housing Act which allows them in apartments, homes, and even dormitories with some restrictions.
The challenge for many landlords, property managers, and even store owners is how to enforce the legitimacy for the need of an emotional support animal. Typically, these owners acquiesce rather than fight the legitimacy of the emotional support animal. Of course, the downside in doing this is that there may likely be other residents or patrons that have allergies to these animals. As you can see, this puts the owners in a difficult situation. To further complicate matters, size restrictions on animals in rental properties do not apply to emotional support animals either. Needless to say, this has become quite a slippery slope in housing.
As a property owner, it is always a good idea to consult a real estate attorney for matters regarding emotional support animals. Of course, the challenge is that regulations on emotional support animals vary from state to state if they are addressed at all. Typically, there are regulations regarding service animals, but not emotional support animals. Ultimately, there should be federal guidance for emotional support animals and these regulations should be enforced at the state level. Needless to say, this loophole has resulted in widespread abuse and many businesses have been formed to profit off the “certification” of these animals.
Are you a landlord or thinking about becoming one? We can help! At Live South Florida Realty, Inc. we have assisted many investors with their real estate portfolios. Contact Natasha today to get started. Also, be sure to download the free Florida Home Search app for your smartphone or tablet.