Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

Difference Between Service, Emotional Support Animals and Pets

It's no longer enough to say that a dog is just man's best friend. These days, the overwhelming majority of Americans (97% to be precise) view their furry friends as family members.

This makes it incredibly complicated for landlords who aren't keen to let said furry animals on their properties. These days, the average tenant may claim to have support animals, emotional support animals, and/or pets. What differentiates these three things, and how does that work with your pet policy?

Let's examine the legal definitions according to fair housing laws, and what you can do about them in Des Moines, Iowa.

What Are Support Animals?

The ADA makes it very clear that a service support animal is a dog trained to assist a person with a disability. Owners of support animals like service dogs cannot live without them. These dogs often perform crucial tasks, such as aiding them during an episode such as a seizure.

Support Animals and Your Property

As a result of the ADA, support animals are technically not pets. Tenants have no obligation to report them when applying for your property. Further, you cannot discriminate against tenants for having one, even if you find out by accident through a background check.

What Are Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional support animals are an entirely different category and have no ADA protections. Unlike support animals, they can be any type of domesticated creature. Rather than assisting with a disability, they serve as a mental health aid, such as a comfort animal for someone with depression.

ESAs and Your Property

Emotional support animals are not without protection. The Fair Housing Act protects them on a rental property, even one that doesn't allow pets. So, prepare to have your property management do some additional property maintenance if you get a tenant with one.

However, unlike service and support animals, a tenant must report an emotional support animal. They must provide documentation from a licensed therapist or reputable organization that authorizes the animal. Without this, their animal gets no special treatment.

What Is a Pet?

Luckily, there is no confusing legal landscape when it comes to pets. A pet is a pet, just an animal that someone keeps out of enjoyment. Pets have no legal protections when it comes to a rental property.

Pets and Your Property

Fortunately, there's nothing stopping you from denying a tenant who has a pet. If you have a pet policy and they try to sneak one past you, then they have broken your lease and may be at risk of eviction.

Unless they can prove that it's a service animal or emotional support animal, you have no obligation to renew their lease.

Find Property Management in Des Moines

So what's the difference between support animals, emotional support animals, and pets in Des Moines, Iowa? Support animals and emotional support animals have legal protections under the ADA and fair housing laws. Pets, however, have no protections and can be safely denied in applications.

PMI Central Iowa is your friendly Iowan property management company with 20 years of experience in the business. We use state-of-the-art tech to manage your properties without losing our personal, neighborly touch. Get started with our free rental analysis.