Amy comments: The question of emotional support animals and service animals often comes up. The legal side of this discussion is constantly evolving. Here is a recent article on Zillow.com that discusses emotional support dogs and rental laws in various states.
In many states, landlords have the right to not rent their properties to people with pets. You can enforce that policy by including a no-pets clause in your rental lease agreement. Under federal law, though, you cannot enforce a no-pet policy on a tenant or prospective renter who has an emotional support animal or a service animal.
So, what rights do you have as a landlord if you find out a renter in your no-pets building has a dog for emotional support? Or, if you allow certain pets, what are your options when a tenant adopts, say, a peacock for comfort? Here are the things you need to know.
What qualifies as an emotional support animal?
An emotional support animal, also sometimes called a comfort animal or therapy dog, is not a pet. It’s a medical tool to help people with mental disabilities like depression and anxiety. The animal is often a small dog, but it could be most any species that provides a person emotional support like affection or judgment-free, positive regard.
For the emotional support animal to be legal, tenants need documentation from a licensed medical professional stating that the animal is being used to manage a health condition. Emotional support animals are different from service animals, which are defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act as a dog trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability.