v v v

What Is the Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

What Is the Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Over half of Virginians have at least one pet, with dogs at the forefront. These statistics give Virginia Beach landlords something to think about when it comes to their pet policies.

Allowing pets in a rental property will, without a doubt, widen your tenant pool. However, it could open the door to problems like property damage or excessive noise.

No matter what pet policy you land on, there's one potential situation that's legally black and white. We're talking about tenants who have assistance animals like service dogs or emotional support animals.

What do property owners need to know when it comes to service and support animals? Read on to find out.

What Does a Typical Pet Policy Look Like?

Technically, all rental properties come with a pet policy. On one end of the spectrum, a landlord may prohibit tenants from having any pets of any kind. On the other end of the spectrum, a landlord may not have any rules or restrictions regarding pets.

Because so many Virginians have pets, allowing pets is a great way to find and keep great tenants. However, it's reasonable to put limitations (e.g., a maximum number of pets) and requirements (e.g., a pet fee) in place.

What Are Service and Support Animals?

There's an important distinction between pets and service or emotional support animals. Pets are animals that people own for the sake of companionship and enjoyment. Service and support animals have specific jobs to do and aren't considered pets.

Service animals undergo rigorous training to do things like assist blind people or alert diabetics of changes in blood sugar. Emotional support animals don't have to undergo rigorous training, but they do require a note from a doctor or licensed therapist. These therapy dogs (and, less often, cats or other animals) provide comfort and stability for people with mental health disorders like depression or anxiety.

Can You Prohibit Assistance Animals?

Pet policies do not apply to service and support animals because they aren't pets. Under federal law, you can't discriminate against a tenant with an assistance animal, prohibit the animal from living in your unit, or charge a pet fee.

You can ask for proof that the animal is a certified or registered assistance animal. However, you can't ask a tenant to disclose their disability or provide proof of their disability. Navigating these laws can seem overwhelming at first, but experienced property management can reduce your stress.

Call PMI Virginia for Legal Clarity

As a landlord in Virginia Beach, you may find success with a more flexible pet policy. However, all US landlords must follow federal laws when it comes to service and emotional support animals. When it comes to assistance animals, your typical pet policy does not apply.

Do you need help keeping track of tenant and landlord rights and creating compliant leases? PMI Virginia is a local branch of a national business, meaning that our property managers are experts in federal, state, and local laws. Contact us to learn more about our property management services today.