An SC Property Owner’s Guide to Registered Emotional Support Animals

An SC Property Owner’s Guide to Registered Emotional Support Animals

There are almost 200,000 emotional support animals in the United States, and the number is always rising. If you're a landlord, it's likely that you'll come across a tenant with an ESA. 

But what are registered emotional support animals (and do they really have to be registered)? We're here to tell you what you need to know. Read on to learn some important facts about ESAs.

What Are Emotional Support Animals?

Many people confuse emotional support animals with either service animals or pets. Emotional support animals are neither of those (but they're closer to service animals).

A service animal is an animal that was trained for a specific disability-related purpose, for example, a guide dog for someone who's blind. 

An emotional support animal support's its owner's emotional health. They're sometimes referred to as companion animals, but despite this misleading name, they don't qualify as pets. An ESA is an assistance animal.

While people can't take emotional support animals everywhere that someone could take a service animal, they do have rights as far as housing goes

What Can You Request from Tenants?

So what do you do if a potential tenant has an emotional support animal or if a current tenant wants to get one? 

You can make certain requests if you choose to do so. Landlords without a no-pets policy often let it slide, but because you have to treat an ESA differently from a pet, it can benefit both you and your tenant to request more information. 

There is no registry for emotional support animals. You can not require that your tenant finds some kind of certificate or proof of registration.

Instead, you can ask them for a letter from a mental health professional. Most people will offer it before you ask. 

What Are You Not Allowed to Do? 

You can't discriminate against tenants who have emotional support animals. In other words, you can't refuse to let them rent your property or evict them if they're already there. You also can't restrict breeds, so if someone's emotional support animal is a cat and you normally don't allow cats, they can still have it. 

There are rare situations in which you can claim that the animal would burden you, but these are few and far between. 

You can't ask about someone's specific diagnosis or for proof of diagnosis. This would be requesting someone's personal health information and you'll open yourself up to legal issues.

You can't charge a pet rent or pet fee if your tenant has an emotional support animal. Again, the ESA isn't a pet.

That's What You Should Know About Registered Emotional Support Animals

Registered emotional support animals aren't really registered at all, but that doesn't make them less legitimate. If your current or future tenant has an ESA, they're protected by the renter's rights. 

If you're unsure of the ins and outs of legal issues regarding renting out properties in Columbia, SC, we want to help you. We can help you with everything from tenant screening to making sure that your lease is legal and air-tight. Get a free rental analysis so we can start working together.

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