What should property owners know about tenant-pet laws?
Pets are one of the greatest gifts we can receive. We welcome them into our homes, and in return, they give us love, affection, and so much more!
Whether you have new tenants moving into your property with a pet or have tenants with furry friends already living in your property, there are certain things you should know. Today, we’re going to look at the basic tenant laws regarding pets in the state of Florida. We'll also look at why so many property managers are now open to pets and what you can expect from a property manager if your tenants own a pet or two.
Basic Florida Tenant Laws Regarding Pets
Florida doesn't have any pet restrictions in terms of landlord-tenant law. Property managers can institute their own set of restrictions based on a pet's size and/or breed. However, these restrictions don't apply to service animals or emotional support animals. Moreover, emotional support animals don't require any specific type of training, and landlords aren't permitted to ask specifics about a person's health conditions that require the need for either type of pet.
"Landlords and associations often run into legal trouble by not following the law for service and/or emotional support animals. "They would be well served to verify with their attorney every year that their practices and procedures follow the current law and to have checks in place to ensure their property managers are following the correct procedures so as to avoid costly litigation over this issue." April S. Goodwin, Attorney at Law
What are "service animals?"
It’s important for property owners to understand that there is a difference between emotional support animals and service animals.
A service animal is governed by the ADA and can be either a dog or miniature horse. They must be trained to accomplish a specific task for an individual with a physical, mental, psychological, sensory, or intellectual disability. Examples of service animals include seeing-eye dogs or animals that alert tenants to people at their door and bring their owners their shoes.
Landlords are prohibited from discriminating against someone with a service animal. There can be no increase in rent for individuals who own a service animal. However, property owners can require service animal owners to pay for any damage caused by the animal.
Service animals must be secured by a leash or harness unless these items would interfere with the animal owner’s disability. Voice-command signals are a good alternative to leashes or harnesses.
Should a service animal become unreasonably hostile to other tenants, the property owner has the right to evict the tenant owning the animal or request they get rid of the animal. However, if the service animal owner takes steps to train and mitigate any hostile behavior and is successful in doing so, then the tenant cannot be evicted or asked to get rid of their service animal.
What are "Emotional Support Animals?"
Unlike service animals, emotional support animals can be any animal. These animals are governed by federal and Florida fair housing laws.
Emotional support animals do NOT require training to work or perform tasks. Their presence alone is usually enough to mitigate any symptoms of mental or emotional disabilities (Fl. Stat. § 760.27(1)(a) (2022).).
Though there are differences between them, the landlord-tenant laws regarding emotional support animals and service animals are almost the same.
If tenants have more than one emotional support animal, landlords are permitted to request more information on the needs met by each animal in question. Proof of licensing and vaccinations for each of the animals is also allowed to be requested by landlords.
Why Property Managers Should Accept Pets
Property managers have learned that it’s a good idea to accept renters with pets. In fact, many of them have realized that this can be a key element in finding the best tenants for their property. Here’s why:
Larger Tenant Pool: Since millions of people own pets, allowing them will automatically give property managers a larger tenant pool.
Higher Rental Rates: Property managers have the option of charging a slightly higher rent via an extra "pet fee" for non-service/support pets.
Longer Tenant Rental Times: When tenants find a great property for their pets, they're more apprehensive about moving to a new place.
High-Quality Tenants: Tenants who have pets often tend to be more responsible and financially sound.
Honesty and Fairness: There can sometimes be a slight bit of animosity when others are allowed to have service animals, so it's best to let everyone have a pet or two.
Avoid Hidden Pets: It's no secret that tenants will hide pets, especially cats and small animals, and it's more beneficial to everyone if they don't feel forced to do that.
How Property Managers Deal with Pets?
Property managers have a lot of experience dealing with renters who have pets, whether the animal is a family pet or provides service and/or support. Here are some of the ways that a property manager will keep the landlord and (more importantly) the tenant happy:
Incorporate a Pet Lease Agreement
The first thing that a property manager will do is ensure that there's a pet lease agreement in effect. This agreement will either be integrated into the overall renter's lease agreement or added as an addendum. This will lay out all of the responsibilities and expectations to protect everyone involved.
Specify Pet Deposits or Fees
If the pet isn't a service or emotional support animal, landlords have a bit of leeway when it comes to charging higher rents for tenants with pets. This is typically referred to as a "monthly pet fee," which is integrated into their lease agreement and can be removed if they ever decide to no longer own the animal. The property manager will also inform the renter of a pet security deposit.
Inform tenants about pet restrictions
When advertising a rental property, the management company will specify whether pets are allowed, along with any restrictions. They'll specify the types of animals that are acceptable, the number of pets allowed per household, and any other pertinent details. These pet restrictions are typically limited to dogs and cats, but they may also refer to smaller animals such as rodents and reptiles.
Property Managers will Try to Meet the Pets in Person
Most tenants are perfectly okay with having animals around, but certain pets can be quite rambunctious and loud. To help prevent this, a property manager will often attempt to meet the pets in person so they can get a good feel for the animal. If the property manager has any concerns, he or she can address them directly with the tenant before a lease agreement has been signed.
Work with Tenants About Complaints
Some property managers are concerned with the fact that dogs make noise or bite from time to time, but that's usually not a problem. In most instances, the biggest issues with pets are property damage and, most likely, noise complaints. This is where a manager's tenant communication skills will come in handy. Be sure to always listen closely and address any complaints.
Contact Tourtelot Property Management to Discuss Tenant Laws Regarding Pets
Tourtelot Property Management prides itself on caring for properties of all shapes and sizes. This includes those that are pet-friendly. If you have any questions about tenant laws regarding pets, emotional support animals, or any of our services, give us a call at (727) 345-6006 today.
We also recommend property owners check out PetScreening.com! PetScreening is a great resource that provides "background" checks for pets, so you can get an idea of any pets that will be living on your property. We use this tool to ensure only the best-behaved pets become residents on your property!