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Assistance Animals and Property Rentals

As a landlord, being familiar with the laws and regulations surrounding assistance animals in rental properties is essential. In today’s world, where the use of service animals and emotional support animals is increasing, landlords must understand their responsibilities and obligations to ensure compliance while fostering a harmonious living environment. Let’s explore best practices for landlords regarding assistance animals in rental properties, with a specific focus on Missouri’s laws and accommodations. Let’s delve into the critical considerations and guidelines to navigate this evolving landscape and create a welcoming and inclusive community for all tenants.

Understanding Assistance Animals

Assistance animals play a vital role in providing support and assistance to individuals with disabilities. They are not considered pets but rather tools that aid individuals in their daily lives. It’s crucial to differentiate between service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs) to determine the level of accommodation and legal protections they are entitled to.

Service Animals

Service animals are not pets. They are trained to perform specific tasks or work directly related to a person’s disability. They are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are allowed access to public places, including rental properties, regardless of any pet policies or restrictions.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

ESAs, on the other hand, provide comfort, emotional support, and companionship to individuals with mental health or emotional disabilities. While ESAs do not require specific training, they have protection under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and are entitled to certain accommodations in housing, including rental properties.

assistance animals

Missouri Laws and Accommodations

In Missouri, landlords must abide by both federal and state laws regarding service and emotional support animals. The Missouri Human Rights Act prohibits housing discrimination based on disability and requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, including those with assistance animals.

Reasonable Accommodations

Under the Missouri Human Rights Act, landlords are obligated to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, including allowing assistance animals in rental properties, even if there are pet restrictions or “no-pet” policies in place. Landlords cannot charge additional fees or deposits for assistance animals.

Verification and Documentation

While landlords can request documentation or verification for an assistance animal, they should be cautious not to violate tenants’ privacy rights. A reliable verification process may involve requesting a letter from a healthcare professional or a disability verification form completed by the tenant.

Breed and Size Restrictions

Landlords cannot impose breed or size restrictions on assistance animals. It is essential to remember that service animals and ESAs are not considered pets and serve a specific purpose for individuals with disabilities. Thus, landlords should refrain from applying pet-related policies to these animals.

Tenant Responsibility

Tenants with assistance animals are responsible for the behavior and care of their animals. They must ensure that their animals do not threaten or cause damage to the property. Landlords can still hold tenants accountable for any damages caused by service or emotional support animals.

service animals and rental property

Best Practices for Landlords

To ensure compliance and create a harmonious environment for all tenants, landlords can follow these best practices when dealing with assistance animals:

Educate Yourself

Stay informed about federal, state, and local laws pertaining to assistance animals, including the Missouri Human Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act. Understanding the rights and obligations of both tenants and landlords will help you navigate potential challenges.

Establish Clear Policies

Develop a clear and comprehensive assistance animal policy that outlines the process for requesting accommodation, the necessary documentation, and the expectations for tenant responsibility regarding their animals.

Communication and Documentation

Maintain open communication with tenants regarding assistance animals. Request documentation, such as verification letters or disability verification forms, while respecting privacy rights. Keep proper records of all communication and documentation related to assistance animals.

Reasonable Accommodations

Provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with assistance animals, ensuring they have equal access to housing. Avoid imposing unnecessary barriers or restrictions that could be considered discriminatory.

Property Maintenance and Safety

Continue to enforce property maintenance and safety standards. Conduct regular inspections to ensure the property remains in good condition and promptly address any concerns related to the behavior or care of assistance animals.

emotional support animal

Wrapping Up

As a landlord, understanding the laws and best practices surrounding assistance animals in rental properties is essential for ensuring compliance and maintaining a harmonious living environment. By familiarizing yourself with the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords, including the specific laws in Missouri, you can navigate the accommodation process with confidence and provide equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Remember, creating an inclusive and welcoming community benefits everyone involved and contributes to a positive rental experience for all tenants. At Real Property Management Consultants, we understand the importance of ensuring compliance with state and federal laws for landlords and tenants and work to ensure our clients are in compliance. If you need assistance with your rental properties, we are here to help. Contact us today.

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