The Property Manager’s Guide to Pets and Assistance Animals
The Property Manager’s Guide to Pets and Assistance Animals

Dec 29,2023

The Property Manager’s Guide to Pets and Assistance Animals

The relationship between pets and their owners is precious. The American Pet Product Association discovered that 66% of American households own a pet. For property managers, this statistic must be addressed. While embracing pet-friendly policies can attract a broader tenant pool, it also raises questions about property protection and the difference between pets and assistance animals. As a professional property management company, 3 Options Realty knows everything about service animals, emotional support animals, and companion animals. This allows us to navigate this complex but essential aspect of property management.

Service Animals

Service animals are highly trained animals that provide specific services to disabled individuals. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), property managers must allow service animals to accompany their owners, regardless of pet policies or breed restrictions. We understand service animals are not recognized as pets, and treat them as working animals, as the ADA mandates.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Emotional support animals provide emotional comfort and support to individuals with emotional or psychological conditions. These animals do not require specific training to perform tasks but are essential for their owners’ well-being. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), property managers must make reasonable accommodations for tenants with ESAs, even if they have a “no pets” policy.

Companion Animals

Companion animals, or therapy animals, are not recognized under federal law in the same way as service and emotional support animals. They provide comfort and companionship to individuals and have the same legal protections as service animals and ESAs. Property managers may have more discretion regarding companion animals but should consider individual tenant needs and potential benefits.

Creating a Pet Policy

If you are a landlord, consult a property management company to manage pets and effectively help animals on your premises. Here are the steps to help you create a clear and comprehensive pet policy:

Define Your Terms

Define what a pet, service animal, ESA, and companion animal are. This will help avoid confusion among tenants and ensure everyone understands the rules and regulations.

Establish Pet Rules

If you allow pets on your properties, set specific rules and guidelines. These may include pet breed restrictions, size limits, vaccination requirements, and leash or containment regulations. Be consistent in enforcing these rules, or hire a property management company to ensure a harmonious living environment.

Accommodate Assistance Animals

Regarding assistance animals, accommodate tenants with documented disabilities. Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations applicable in your area, such as the ADA and FHA, and understand your responsibilities in providing reasonable accommodations.

Document Everything

Maintain a comprehensive documentation of all interactions with tenants and their animals. This includes requests for accommodation, verification of disabilities, and any incidents related to pets or assistance animals on your properties. Proper documentation can protect you and your tenants.

As a property manager, managing pets and assistance animals involves understanding service, emotional support, and companion animals, developing clear pet policies, and complying with applicable laws. Contact us at 3 Options Realty to integrate a standardized pet screening platform. Our expert property managers can help you provide a comfortable living environment for all tenants while protecting your investment.

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