5 Things Landlords Should Know about Emotional Support Animals

5 Things Landlords Should Know about Emotional Support Animals

Building strong tenant relations can go a long way toward securing lease renewals and boosting profits. While tenant relations tend to center around things like communication and maintenance, there's one other thing to consider: tenant rights.

These days, pet ownership rates are on the rise. Each landlord has the right to decide if they'll allow pets and, if so, what types. What does the law have to say about emotional support animals?

Read on for five things you need to know about emotional support animals in your Milwaukee rental property.

1. Emotional Support Animals Aren't Pets

The first thing landlords need to understand is that emotional support animals aren't pets by law. Federal guidelines require all US landlords to view emotional support animals as disability accommodations.

That means you can't turn discriminate against an applicant because they have an ESA, regardless of your pet policy. You also can't charge a pet fee for an ESA.

2. You Can Ask for a Signed Letter

Service animals like seeing eye dogs undergo rigorous training and have the credentials to prove it. ESAs don't have to meet training standards, but there is one form of proof tenants should produce.

A doctor or mental health professional must provide an emotional support animal letter in order for landlords to recognize ESAs as such. If an applicant or tenant has an ESA, you may ask to see this letter.

3. You Can't Ask for Proof of Disabilities

Your tenants have a legal right to privacy when it comes to their health. Emotional support animals are paired with people suffering from mental health problems. These are often "invisible" disabilities, and you may wonder about their validity.

You can call the professional who signed your tenant's ESA letter for verification of their signature. However, you may not ask them or your tenant why they need an ESA or to produce medical records.

4. You Can Enforce Maintenance Expectations

Although ESAs aren't pets, you can expect that tenants will attend to any maintenance issues that pertain to their ESA, particularly regarding sanitation.

In other words, it is legal and reasonable to expect tenants to keep your property clean in relation to their ESA. This includes proper waste pickup and removal.

5. You Do Have Rights

Do landlords have to accept applicants with ESAs? The short answer is no. If an applicant is not otherwise qualified for your property (e.g., does not make have the income to support rent payments), you can decline their application.

Under Wisconsin law, you may also decline to house a tenant with an ESA if the ESA creates an undue burden. However, you should be prepared to prove this burden in court if necessary.

Get Compliant With Your Own PMI Property Manager

Landlords will see an increase in applicants and tenants with emotional support animals. Stay on top of all the latest federal guidelines and state laws that impact ESAs.

Do you need help keeping your rental properties compliant with the law? Our small but knowledgeable team has years of experience in Milwaukee real estate and knows local, state, and federal real estate law like the backs of our hands. Contact us today to find out if we're a good match.