Do you own a Bradenton rental? If so, there's a good chance you've already received one or two emotional support animal (ESA) housing letters.
For many homeowners, this letter will seem like a point of contention. If you have a no-pets policy, why would a support animal be exempt from it? And if you allow a tenant to bring an ESA, how will this impact your property?
To answer these questions, we need to go over Florida laws regarding ESAs. Here's what support animals are and what you can do about them.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
First things first: emotional support animals aren't pets. The best way to think of them is as medical devices that help people with disabilities.
Though similar to service animals, support animals don't need to have special traits. Their only purpose is to make their owner feel better. Many ESAs can perform specific tasks, but this isn't a hard-and-fast rule.
Many people with diagnosed disabilities or disorders can qualify for an ESA. These include anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, and so on. The support animal must have a connection to the owner's disability.
What Are the Tenant's Rights?
Under Florida law, bringing an ESA into a rental property is fairly simple. All the owner needs to do is provide a signed ESA letter.
Other than looking at the letter, your options are limited. For example, you can't ask the tenant about their disorder or disability. You also can't deny an application due to the presence of an ESA, as that could lead to a lawsuit.
If you have dog breed restrictions in place, they don't apply to ESAs. And since support animals aren't pets, you can't charge a pet fee. That said, you can charge tenants a fee if their ESA causes property damage.
Reasons to Deny an ESA
As mentioned above, ESAs aren't subject to any breed or weight limits. As such, their presence could create issues for the property owner.
For instance, restricted breeds may increase your unit's liability insurance. You can claim that this is an undue financial burden and use it as a reason to deny an ESA. However, the court is unlikely to rule in your favor.
A better reason to deny an ESA is to consider it a threat to other tenants. In this case, you may try to remove the threat by offering another reasonable accommodation. If that's impossible, you may have grounds for denial.
The same applies to ESAs that cause physical damage to other people's property. Some support animals may simply be too big for your unit. That said, you can't discriminate ESAs based only on their breed.
Support Animals Made Easy
Support animals can be a tricky subject in real estate. Oftentimes, the decision on whether to accept them may be out of your hands. Read the above guide to learn more about your rights in these situations.
Another way to avoid ESA issues: hire a property manager to deal with them! If you live in Bradenton, contact us here to learn more about our property management services!