Property Management Blog

Do Florida Rentals Allow Emotional Support Animals

System - Monday, June 3, 2024
Property Management Blog

Navigating the world of rental properties can be complex, especially if you have an emotional support animal. 

When you add emotional support animals (ESAs) into the mix, it can become even more challenging.

In Florida, the laws surrounding ESAs in rentals are specific. Tenants need to be aware of these regulations.

This article aims to shed light on the policies and rules regarding ESAs in Florida rentals. It will provide actionable information for tenants with emotional support animals.

Understanding Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Emotional support animals, or ESAs, are not just pets. They are animals that provide therapeutic benefits to individuals with mental or emotional disabilities.

ESAs are not required to perform specific tasks. Their primary role is to offer emotional comfort and companionship to their owners.

Florida Laws and ESAs in Rental Properties

In Florida, laws regarding ESAs in rental properties are quite clear. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protect the rights of individuals with disabilities, including those who own ESAs.

These laws prohibit discrimination against tenants with disabilities. This includes those who require the companionship of an ESA. As such, landlords and property managers must make reasonable accommodations for ESAs.

However, there are certain conditions and exceptions. For instance, properties with fewer than four units where the landlord occupies one of the units are exempt from these laws.

The Fair Housing Act and ESAs

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that protects tenants from discrimination. It applies to ESAs in Florida rentals and across the United States.

Under the FHA, landlords and property managers cannot refuse to rent to someone because they have an ESA. They also cannot charge extra fees or deposits for ESAs.

Documentation Requirements for ESAs

To qualify for an ESA in Florida, a tenant must provide appropriate documentation. This typically includes a letter from a licensed mental health professional.

The letter must state that the tenant has a mental or emotional disability. It should also explain how the ESA helps alleviate the symptoms of this disability. However, landlords and property managers cannot ask for detailed medical records or specifics about the tenant's disability.

The Role of Property Managers with ESAs 

Property managers play a crucial role in accommodating ESAs in Florida rentals. They are responsible for ensuring that the property complies with all relevant laws and regulations.

This includes making reasonable accommodation for tenants with ESAs. It also involves handling any disputes or issues that may arise between tenants regarding ESAs.

Property Management and ESA Accommodations

Accommodating ESAs can pose unique challenges for property management. For instance, they must balance the needs of the tenant with an ESA with those of other tenants.

Property managers also need to ensure that the presence of an ESA does not disrupt the peaceful enjoyment of the property by other tenants. This requires clear communication and a well-defined ESA policy.

Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

Tenants with ESAs in Florida have certain rights. They are entitled to reasonable accommodation for their ESA in their rental property. This means that landlords and property managers cannot refuse to rent to them because of their ESA.

However, tenants also have responsibilities. They must provide valid documentation for their ESA. They must also ensure that their ESA does not cause undue hardship or disruption to other tenants.

Requesting ESA Accommodation: The Process

The process for requesting ESA accommodation in a Florida rental starts with the tenant. The tenant must provide their landlord or property manager with a letter from a licensed mental health professional. This letter should confirm that the tenant requires the ESA for emotional support.

Once the landlord or property manager receives this letter, they must make reasonable accommodations for the ESA. They cannot charge extra fees or deposits for the ESA. However, if the ESA causes damage to the property, the tenant may be held responsible.

Common Misconceptions About ESAs in Rentals 

There are several misconceptions about ESAs in rentals. One common myth is that landlords can charge pet fees for ESAs.

This is not true. Under the Fair Housing Act, ESAs are not considered pets. Therefore, landlords cannot charge pet fees or deposits for them.

Another misconception is that landlords have the right to deny accommodation to ESAs if they have a no-pet policy. This is also false. The Fair Housing Act states that landlords have to make reasonable accommodations for ESAs, even if they have a no-pet policy.

If the ESA poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, the landlord does not have to provide accommodations.

Contact Tourtelot Property Management for Property management Services in St. Petersburg

Florida rentals are required by law to accommodate emotional support animals. Both tenants and property managers need to understand their rights and responsibilities in this matter. Misunderstandings can lead to disputes, so clear communication and knowledge of the law are crucial.

For further information, tenants can consult resources such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's guidelines on service animals and assistance animals for people with disabilities in housing and HUD-funded programs.

If you have a property you wish to rent, contact Tourtelot Property Management to learn more about our services and to get your free rental property analysis.