Emotional support animals (ESA) in real estate has been a controversial topic that has been exploited for many years. With this said, the Florida Legislature recently passed a bill affecting ESA guidance in Florida. The law creates new clarifications for emotional support animals. With this said, it’s important to understand exactly what it does – and does not – do.
Senate Bill 1084 was largely written to curb the abuse of “online certificates,” which allege to be the gold standard in determining whether or not an animal is a “true” ESA or not. One of the main components of the law, which is based on new federal guidelines, is that patients must establish the need for an ESA through a licensed medical practitioner with whom they have an established professional relationship. Additionally, the law creates a civil penalty for the falsification of documentation used to support the need for an ESA. Also, Senate Bill 1084 includes the need for separate supporting documentation for each emotional support animal in a household, liability for any damages done to a person or property where an ESA resides, and a housing provider’s ability to ask for supporting documentation if the disability is not readily apparent.
Finally, the law allows a housing provider to deny an ESA if they believe the animal will cause harm to people or the property of others. The bill does not address restaurants, airplanes or other public places. The effective date of Senate Bill 1084 was July 1, 2020.