It's easy to assume that you've figured out a pet policy for your residential lease agreement until you stumble into a situation you weren't anticipating. For example, what happens when a resident has an animal they want to bring to your pet-free rental as a service animal?
Some rental property owners would be tempted to create a hard line in the sand by not allowing any animals into their rental properties. However, other pet-friendly rental owners might say an enthusiastic "yes" to pets and emotional support animals (ESAs) alike, without being sure whether they need to reduce the pet rent or other fees as part of the accommodations for a renter with a support animal.
What do you do in these situations? Our Annapolis property management company is here to walk through lease agreements and how to handle service animals vs. pets in your properties. Real estate investors must comply with local and state laws when renters request accommodation (even if they don't offer pet-friendly rentals).
The Difference Between Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals
When it comes to emotional support animals, it's critical to realize what is legal and most advantageous to you long-term as a rental property owner. In some states, there is a reasonably strong distinction between service animals and emotional support animals. In the case of a service animal, they are trained by a recognized agency and are often needed to provide essential functions when helping renters with disabilities. However, emotional support animals may be just as key to a person's well-being, but they usually don't have specialized training to conduct specific tasks.
As a rental property owner, knowing how to respond to a resident's request for emotional support animals can be challenging—especially if you don't want pets in your property. However, a property owner must understand the law and respond appropriately.
Maryland Protects Housing for Those With Emotional Support Animals
As it turns out, Maryland makes potential confusion about an emotional support dog fairly clear for property owners to abide by the law across a rental portfolio. Maryland recognizes most emotional support animals with the same Fair Housing Act protections as service animals with no discrimination because of a particular level of training or not. This means that when a renter requests an ESA in their rental home, property owners must comply in most cases.
A property manager can help investors also keep a few things in mind when responding to a request for service or emotional support animals, including:
- The emotional support animal may require you to waive any pet fees or rent. However, if the animal proves to be destructive or disruptive, you can deny the request for this accommodation. ESAs are not protected from causing undue hardship for a property owner or other renters.
- The goodwill and legal standing you gain from recognizing service animals and emotional support animals equally can be well worth whatever small amount of pet rent or perceived cash flow you lose.
- If you see an uptick in emotional support animal requests for a pet-free rental, consider whether it's best to allow pets and boost your overall applicant pool, where pet owners incur some reasonable fees.
Responses to reasonable accommodation requests must follow the law. However, a property manager can help you determine legitimate requests and protect your properties from destructive or disruptive animals.
A Property Manager Can Help With the Lease Agreement
Working with an Annapolis property management company can help you craft language in your lease agreement that is neither discriminatory nor unclear. Real estate investors might want to consider allowing pets in properties because tenants with well-behaved pets can bring in additional revenue through higher rental rates or pet fees. In addition, a well-written lease allows you to pursue damages if the pet causes property damage.
Your lease should also be clear about the process to request a service animal or emotional support animal before bringing one into the home without approval. Property managers help owners stay up to date on service dog and emotional support animal legislation. They also help minimize risk to your properties when pets or ESAs live with tenants. Adapting maintenance, repairs, and upgrades can create a property that resists pet damage and remains low-maintenance to reduce the potential for costly pet-related repairs.
Serve Tenants Well With An Annapolis Property Management Company
Renters that require an emotional support animal or a service animal will be healthier and happier with their animals nearby. Plus, being a good property owner and responding appropriately to request for an ESA vs. a pet helps you build positive relationships with residents and improve your income.
The best professional property management company knows that writing the right kind of residential lease agreement can clarify details of the contract and avoid conflict between owners and renters. Renters Warehouse BW Metro is here to help you protect your properties with our professional property management services. If you need help with anything we've mentioned here today, reach out soon!
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